Plea of the Holy Fool (circa 2003)

Help me O Lord
For I am surrounded by friends
Who seem as bad as enemies
Save me O Lord
From the twin demons
Of pride and self-hatred
They both magnify me
And place me above you
The worship from the hypocrites
Who wish to turn me
From village idiot to holy fool
Is no less a sacrilege
Than the hate from those
Who view me as empty and worthless
But it is more treacherous
Because it comes in the guise of friendship
I have loved you and will praise you
With every piece of my soul that I can muster
Help me to turn towards you
And away from lies

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The Tree Outside My Window (circa 2004)

The tree outside my window is rooted in the ground
It looks immobile from a distance
But I have seen its branches
Grow, bend, break, be hacked off, grow again
And I have seen its leaves
Grow, twist, change, fall, and grow again

Compared to the tree, I move a lot, and quickly
Compared to other humans, I don’t move much, and slowly
I spend years of my life lying down by the window
In those years the tree tumbles in through my eyes
The jumble slowly etches a deep pattern in my brain

The tree outside my window is not immobile, inert, or unaware
It understands warmth and cold, sunlight and rain
It has an understanding not contained in a brain
A sedentary, ordinary understanding
But one too foreign for most of us rapid creatures
To do more than, one way or another, distort or deny

A woman recoils from the mere thought of how I live
She says my pain and weakness steal time and life from me
I had no words to make her understand
But unbidden the tree forces its way into my mind
Flashing bright, demanding to be recognized
It is not wasted, and neither am I

Hoofbeats in your stethoscope

“When you hear hoofbeats,
Think horses, not zebras.”
That’s what the doctors say
They mean think of obvious diseases
Before the obscure ones
But my life has been a testament
To when this doesn’t work
So I have some lists
To guide doctors on their way
When you hear hoofbeats
The first thing you need to do
Is discern what country you are in
And what country your patient is in
As well as what country your patient is from
What country their parents are from
How far they have traveled
And where
So when you hear those hoofbeats
Galloping up your stethoscope
Here are some things to look out for:
Horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, donkeys, mules —
The farm animals and beasts of burden
Familiar to Western doctors
Llamas, alpacas, camels, dromedaries
Asses of all sorts
And not just horses’s asses —
Like some of you
Oxen, buffalo, tapir, rhinoceros
Yaks, wild hogs, deer, antelope
Peccary, chevrotain, and of course zebras…
Can I stop now?
Do you get the idea?
Do you know how many times
I’ve almost died
Due to doctors thinking
“It’s either horses or psychiatric”?
I have a list of non-horse medical diagnoses
Some rarer than others
All confirmed by rigorous testing
Performed by standard medical practitioners
And so does my whole family
So when you hear hoofbeats in your stethoscope
Think ungulates
Then try to figure out which ungulate it is
That is, after all, your job
And whether you find horses, zebras, or miniature deer,
You will save lives.