When We Were One

Back in 1984, I gave a poetry reading at The Humanities in Medicine Conference sponsored by the William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition. Afterwards, the Yale surgeon physician-writer Richard Selzer walked up to me, placed both hands over his heart, and proclaimed, “From such callow youth!”

I was so callow at the time that I had to look up the word “callow.”

This is the poem he was referring to.



It was a chance meeting

in the night that brought

me together, my two halves

became whole within you.

As I grew, suspended

in time, zygote to

blastomere, morula

to blastocyst, embryo

to fetus; I had no

awareness, no sense

of the journey

just begun. Floating

within your ontogenous

sea, your body

enveloped, your warmth

sustained; we were one.


But those waters have long since broken

and we are oceans apart, now.

I search within

for those lost memories, a sense of

how it felt. For this is what death

must be like, a reversal

of the process, a sucking back

into the womb, quiet,

dark, effortless. Then, a shrinking

back through time

as each cell of life decays

and recombines, dissolving

into fluid, flowing

into waves.

©1984 Kurt Biehl