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Pioneers, pilgrims

By Mary Clare Masters

Deep in the tall prairie grasses of childhood,
I heard that butterflies could see into the UV spectrum far beyond blue, indigo, violet.
Watching those monarchs feed on milkweed,
Wings emblazoned with decoy eyes,
I first resented the blue, blue, blue Midwestern sky.

Cocooned in a padded room and a recent dose of five and two,
He mumbles of hues and hymns.
Crossing the threshold, kneeling beside him, trying on his eyes, 
I gain only scuff-mark murals and the night nurses’ mezzo chants.
Seeing that which is so plainly before him,
He proclaims that nothing is more certain than good buttermilk biscuits and a gangbanger’s honest word.

“Why bother to read books if we can’t read each other’s minds? 
How are you certain I follow anything you say?”
Despite vague pledges to listen and explain,
To the recursive doubt in his eyes, I profess faith in conversation as a sacrament.

Rising, retreating to the manicured courtyard, I genuflect beneath that same cerulean prairie cathedral ceiling 

Contemplating what sort of photoreceptors one must adapt to appreciate the deepest shades of sorrow.


Mary Clare Masters is a fourth year medical student at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. As a sophomore at Stanford University, Dr. Larry Zaroff's seminar on doctors as writers and readers attracted her to the humanity of medicine. She plans to enter Internal Medicine.



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