Doctor's Orders

Dr. Williams made poems, and he delivered babies.
The poems are short because he wrote them
in the breaks between the babies. The babies
by now have had their own babies,
who have had their own babies.
They all go around eating plums and talking American.
American is a very poetic language.
Dr. Williams wrote it as he heard it
on his prescription pads, where there was no room
for adjectives or fancy Latinate words.
He said that men die every day from the lack
of what is found in poetry. Which is why he made so many
house calls. Dr. Williams checked all his babies
with a metrical stethoscope. Their heartbeats were syncopated
like jazz, they never beat in iambic pentameter.
When the babies grew up, all day long they riffed in free verse.
When Dr. Williams grew old,
he stopped writing on prescription pads,
used yellow legal pads instead. His lines grew longer,
more rambling. He started sounding like Allen Ginsberg.
Allen Ginsberg was Dr. William's hipster baby.
He howled when Dr. Williams smacked him on the fanny.
Allen Ginsberg was gay, but he had a straight baby.
His baby was called Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan's real name was Zimmerman.
He called himself Dylan after Dylan Thomas.
Dylan Thomas wrote in Irish, not American.
His lines were flowery, and frequently difficult to understand.
Nobody could figure out Bob Dylan either.
That is what made him so soulful and poetic.
Everyone can understand Dr. Williams. His plums are sweet,
his wheelbarrows are red and glazed with rain.
His babies fill every nook and cranny of America.

by Richard Schiffman

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Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist, poet, and author of two biographies. His poems have been published in Southern Poetry ReviewAlaska Quarterly ReviewNew Ohio ReviewThe Christian Science MonitorThe New York Times, and many other publications. His poetry book, What the Dust Doesn't Know, is forthcoming from Salmon Press.