POETRY: “THE STACK” by Michael Salcman

I apologize for not reading the stack of books
you’ve sent me,
those wet stories of a West Virginia childhood
with nighttime drives around cliffs
between drunk fests
and other pranks,
not to mention the tomes on cats and ocean creatures
with glowing eyes
that now occupy the surface tops of tables
this foreign army stationed
in more than one room of my house.
I feel trapped by duty.

I promise you I will never catch up
with the task;
I’ve got my own writing to do
and must read the books I need in order to write.
I’m not counting on the little time I’ve got left
for the words of friends who’ve asked the favor
of a blurb or two.

Be glad I’m not your ideal reader.
Rarely reading for pleasure
the hours fill up with the guilt of not clearing my desk—
my hypertrophied superego and its overcritical morality
prevent me from closing the covers of any book
I’ve opened without finishing or thinking.

Michael Salcman: poet, physician and art historian, was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum. In addition to Euphony, his poems appear in Arts & Letters, Barrow Street Review, The Café Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, and Poet Lore. Books include The Clock Made of Confetti, The Enemy of Good is Better, Poetry in Medicine, a popular anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness & healing, and A Prague Spring, Before & After, winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize. Both Shades & Graces, inaugural winner of The Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize (2020), and Necessary Speech: New & Selected Poems (2022) were recently published by Spuyten Duyvil.