The Writing Disorder


New Poetry


by Aaron Poller

                                  (For the Students of Mental Health Nursing 3511, Block Two)

The pros and cons of a clear liquid diet
are not always obvious

nor do we want them to be. This morning
black coffee is as close as I can be

to compliance. Two days from now
a urologist will take my prostate

gland from its familiar spot in my body
and hopefully I will be better off

in the long run without it. Yet
there is something about giving up

a part of oneself that gives pause. Meaning
the gland that’s been faithful to me

for over sixty years deserves, I think,
more recognition, at least one shout out

for which the ex-governor of Alaska
now takes credit in our speech.

So as my nursing students sit in rows
over their final exam, I sit too,

preparing, like them, to go forward
into the always uncertain future

with a quiet smile and one last whisper


This morning as I step outside
I’m greeted by the symphony

of birds, each one contributing
some special note, that suddenly

I feel in tune with the rightness
of their song. How many mornings

I missed that song? We live in a world
so odd and troubled, a world

that pulls us into creation
of our own mind, our feeling

of sadness, longing to be better,
useful , successful as others.

Ah, to have red wings, to fly. Yet

the symphony of birds strives on.
Movement after stirring movement.

Birds remind us of important
things, of god, of grace, of joy

in creation. As I write these
words they are still singing, and when

I finish they will be singing,
then they will continue to sing.


The hypomania of any illness
may be harder to endure than illness

itself. In dream we may find the thing
we have tried so long to escape

we do not recognize ourselves:
the turn we have taken to disguise

our face, the bad Bogart film where
a plastic surgeon is forced in giving

a killer a new face just before dawn
so he can launch revenge against

the fearful city as someone
in a dark trench coat slips out

at daybreak to flee across
a bridge that sways perfidiously

in the moon’s waning light.
We recognize a small detail

of the killer’s face, recalls
its awful similarity

to the man or woman we once
had been; perhaps, we are.


The daffodil greets me outside the door
with a smile and a hector stretched out to

a welcome, and sometimes, a how are you.
A squirrel, no fan of the daffodil,

does a back flip across the slippery
lawn but he’s not seeking my attention,

just looking for any leftover sunflower
seed birds have dropped around the oak today,

after these long months of winter,
ready for the quick uptick, aroused spring,

though mind still may be attached
to its own cleverness, in survival

mode. I go back inside to pay the bills,
to call the doctor, continue to take

care of little things that seek attention.
Wherever I am looking there is that.

Time passes on for each and all of us
no matter how busy or not busy

we may be. The squirrel does not miss.
The daffodil is shining, built with trust.


The broken noise of noon without a lunch
to steady me is sometimes more than I

can stand. In April shore is in the trees
and sounds of windless afternoon call out

the names of streets or harbingers of much
colder days and nights to come, jessamine

flowing through the upright trellis, golden
with appreciation for what has come.

This launch of days in spring considerate,
perhaps a poetry in Latin might

enhance the gamboling across the green,
the feather articulation of some

naughty word that placement might conceal
or verbs betray to rougher scenery,

for sure the boat of twelve o’clock is sprung
and sailors in bold caps have taken hold

and heading off to distant foreign land
have raised a cheer with oaken kegs of rum.

Aaron Poller was born in the Bronx, New York. He received a BA in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania (1969) where he studied writing and poetry with Robert Mezey, Jean Garrigue and Daniel Hoffman. He received an ADN at Montgomery County Community College (1986) where he studied mental health nursing with Della Barole. He received a BSN at LaSalle University (1988) where he studied nursing with Gloria Donnelly and Zane Robinson Wolfe and he received an MSN at the University of Pennsylvania (1992) where he studied family systems theory with Joanne Gilles Donovan and chronic mental illness/trauma therapy with Nancy Worley and Ann Burgess. He is currently a Board Certified Psychiatric/Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist. He has worked for over 35 years in mental health nursing and since 2005 maintains a practice as a psychotherapist in Winston-Salem, N.C. where he also teaches mental health nursing at Winston-Salem State University. He has two grown daughters and lives with his wife, four dogs and two cats. Over the past 40 years his poetry has appeared, now and then, in various journals and anthologies.

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