Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Sandra McPherson: Going to See Dr. Jones Out of Loneliness, 1966

The psychiatrist works below the cliff.

And it is sad to see the patients climbing,

the leaves falling, the fogs leaning,

all against that rakish face, that lush leap.

.

From the top you see the sunny cat on a roof,

you feel blinding as a mountain goat.

You have to get ready

for a more complicated life.

You have to tell him the simple things

don’t know how to put their round heads together.

.

You come from a country with high sides.

Building a stairway is like laying a fire.

People have thick legs for all the verticals.

There is no ambition, just fitness

and the cantering of bells.

.

You don’t know why you go up and down.

He says just talk, but you can’t describe it.

You come from a land of music.

You could never refuse a scale. You begin,

“This week I suffered these words and tune.

Maybe just listen to my voice.”


Copyright 2019 Sandra McPherson. An earlier version of this poem was published in The New York Times 1972 March 25. 

The author, looking at a map of Seattle, says, “See, center right, where it says University Village?  And just below that NE 45th St?  That’s where Dr. Jones was.  There’s quite a difference in elevation between the U District, school & housing, & the U Village below, where Dr. Jones’s office was.”

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