Dr. Christ

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This piece was created at a workshop with the late poet Leland Kinsey to whom I am indebted for his friendship, his words and all the work he did for young people (and me).

To know him was to see his smile
feel his warmth, his thick
soft hands, his keen blue eyes
watching, welcoming,
as you spoke, as you answered his
"How are you?" Because,
He really did want you to answer.
He was my doctor.
He was my Dad's doctor.
Dr. Christ.

We, together sometimes, would visit him, far away
in the big city
we, two, 
bound by one thing,
one word,
polio.
Such a harsh word then,
so unknown now.
My Dad was struck down, as they said;
survived a war and all its invasions
only to be felled one hot summer evening.
He lost his legs, as he'd say,
and the family focused on him
to help his recovery, to pray.
I was too young to know,
just two, then three.
It was then they figured out
that maybe there was a reason
I rather would crawl than walk.

My Dad and I would visit him,
our doctor,
Dr. Christ. 
I was five or six
when they straightened me out on that one.
I thought he really was
the brother of Jesus,
the way he'd lay his hands on my legs,
or stretch my muscles,
the way he'd prod and wiggle my knees and ankles
or have me walk
without the hand rails.
"Grice, Geoffrey," they said with a laugh. "'G' not 'C.'"

And so my Dad and I would visit him,
our doctor,
in his green-walled office
with the high leather table
that would squeak when I
sat down,
grip my skin as I moved,
the room smelling so clean,
like no smell at all.
My Dad would wait outside
then, it'd be his turn.
Later, we'd drive in the long night's silence,
and when I awoke, I'd be home,
and my Mom would help me
upstairs.
He would write sometimes, Dr. Christ,
to say hello, to ask whether
I was doing my exercises.
He'd prescribed skating,
lots of skating,
pushing a green chair across the pond, 
and swimming,
laps down at the lake,
back and forth between the float lines.

When I was 9 the threat
of a brace was long gone, and,
one day,
Dr. Christ came to see us at home,
My Dad and me,
our doctor.
He saw Dad first and then me,
"How are you?" he asked, and
ushered me outside,
his thick, soft hands guiding the way out back
to the lawn,
our two-acre lawn that went to the field.
It was a cold early fall day,
crisp leaves, gray wind. October.
"Run to the hedgerow and back," he said.
"Can you do that? Can you do that without falling?"
I took off,
all the way in the tall grass
almost tripping
but not
all the way back
without falling
first time
ever.
He raised me up to the sky and,
as I slipped down in his grasp,
I felt the stubble of his beard against my cheek,
and he held me close and said,
in my ear,
"Don't ever stop trying, Geoffrey. Don't ever stop trying."

He stayed for early supper
and then was off
he had a drive ahead
and a plane to catch
he was going to see his daughter.
But his plane never made it,
forty-seven seconds from takeoff,
it ran into a flock of starlings
and came down in the bay.
A murmuration of starlings.
Imagine.