In Memoriam: John Stone (1936-2008)

Late last night I learned that poet and physician John Stone had lost his battle with cancer. He died last Thursday at the age of 72. I had the pleasure of performing with John in 2004 at the Voices Carry reading at The Carter Center here in Atlanta. He read from his collection, Music From Apartment 8, and moved many of us to tears with the poems about his mother and his growing up in the south. Along with his indelible words, John made significant contributions to the medical field in Atlanta. He was a cardiologist, professor and associate dean of admissions at Emory University's medical school. His On Doctoring: Stories, Poems and Essays is required reading for first year medical students at Emory. He also founded and directed Grady Hospital's residency program in emergency medicine. You can read more about John at the Georgia Encyclopedia and about his accomplishments in a wonderful article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He will be missed. This poem from Music from Apartment 8 (which was his mother's apartment number) never fails to make me tear up, even as I was typing it here.

Visitation (December 2001)

At Serenity Gardens, winter
has surrounded us. My mother's room
is way too warm for me,

just right for her–with an extra sweater.
Outside, this uneasy year, her 93rd,
lurches through December.

She is surely serene in this place,
thanks to whatever goodness;
queen of the electronic piano.

Among my chief duties now
I have become her human calendar,
a stay against time, her reach for the past.

Each visit, we review the years.
We sit and we talk, fragile mother,
absent-minded son.

This afternoon, I assemble for her
some semblance of my long-dead
father, the only husband she had.

I tell her his story.
We study his photograph.
Do you remember him, I ask?

She looks again.
No, she answers, softly. No.
But isn't he good looking!

She smiles. I chuckle.
In the gathering dark,
we cry a bit together:

I for what she has forgotten,
she for what I remember.

Comments

Lisa Allender said…
Coll, I am so sorry to hear of this poet-doctor's passing. I was just reading this poem, last week!(I purchased that collection from him, at the "Voices Carry" event you mentioned here). His poetry manages to move one to tears, by being "raw" in the emotion, without any overwrought "sentimentality".
What a loss. Thank you for letting us know.
Maggie May said…
I'm glad to know about this poet. A poem that I can relate to, and even more touching when you realize how much longer his mother lived than he did.
January said…
Thanks for sharing this poem.

It's a loss with anyone passes, but when it's a poet I feel our poetry community gets that much smaller.
Oh God yes, this poem is wonderful! I didn't know of this poet but can see why you mourn his loss.
christine said…
Collin, thanks for sharing this beautiful poem, and for saying something about John Stone's life. I haven't read his poems yet, but now I will. What a talented human being he was.

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