What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Weekly Poem: ‘Sick’

By Philip Schultz

Every Wednesday morning for one year

I volunteered in an outpatient ward

for children too angry for public school.

Ten-to fifteen-year-olds, they wrote about

mothers who boiled their hands to scare

the devil away, trying to scrape the blackness

off their face, fishing for cats on fire escapes

and fornicating in alleyways, why despair

tasted like leather and smelled like smoke —

until a doctor said: Stop coming, these kids

are too sick for poetry. On our last morning

I played the fool (as they liked me to: “White guy

goin’ to fat, no hair to slick, who’s he kiddin’

comin’ so far uptown, playin’ wit’ the downs

an’ outs…”), singing about a nightingale.

The poet was dying, I said, but he wrote

about visions and faery lands. About beauty.

About hope. I said, Please, taste the truth

in each syllable, but their eyes stayed dead

and I left feeling I might’ve helped them

if I had tried a little harder.

Philip SchultzPhilip Schultz won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2008 for his book of poems, “Failure.” He is the founder and director of the Writers Studio in New York. Schultz’s latest book, “The God of Loneliness: Selected and New Poems,” came out in April. His work has appeared in a number of magazine and journals, including the New Yorker, Poetry, the New Republic and the Paris Review. We’ll have a conversation with Schultz posted in Art Beat soon. See another of his poems, posted last Monday, here.

Support for Poetry Provided By:

Support for Poetry Provided By:

Latest News