Stanley H. Schuman
In Aramaic scripture*, and Aboriginal Dreamtime.
How else could animal life begin
Except by Divine Breath, oxygen-enriched?
How ingenious! Only two atoms: O2,
Ideal for hemoglobin, mitochondria,
Neurotransmitters, ideal for fight or flight, for vocalizing,
For clever humans to shape tools, split atoms,
Compose opera, sow seeds, harvest grain.
Consider my distress, in my just-opened pediatric office.
Stumped by Angela, a three-year-old
So panicked by my white coat, no way to examine her.
Screaming, clutching Mother, she knew and I knew
This wasn’t university-hospital, with back-up nurses.
Instead, it was one-on-one,
Desperate, I felt for a stray balloon in my
Pants pocket (from my own child’s birthday).
Putting it to my lips, I strained to inflate the stubborn thing.
Instantly, Angela’s tear-reddened eyes opened wide.
The more I flushed and puffed, clown-like,
The more she giggled, finally bursting into laughter,
Sans fear, forgetting pain.
My breath, a yellow balloon, a child’s laughter…
Three gifts from the gods!
*Douglas-Klotz, N.: Prayers of the Cosmos, 1990 Harper, San Francisco, CA.
About the poem:
“This poem captures two memories for me: my anxious first day in solo pediatric practice in suburban St. Louis, 1954, and my enchantment with the …