From the archives – Surgeon Finds Tree Growing in Man’s Lung — Laura Sobbott Ross

Surgeon Finds Tree Growing in Man’s Lung

First there was the cough, then the dream—
a rumbling through his diaphragm, throat dilated,
raw as if scraped with bark, the soft corners
of his mouth splitting like a seed coat.
His sinuses so full of green needles,
his sheets smelled like fir for days.

He began to disdain clouds and blinds,
the pearl colored cave of Russian winter sky.
Here, it was not unusual to lack vitamin D,
but, oh, the craving for sun! How it burned,
as his fingertips tingled and itched for river silt
buried beneath the snow clotted valley.

His cough grew in the humid bog
of his lungs, until he was blotting blood
from his lips, an essence aromatic
as rosemary on the back of his tongue,
despite lozenges of honey and eucalyptus.

Inside his chest, between bruised air sacs,
slashed webs of capillaries, doctors found
a shadow with teeth, a clawing of roots into tissue
lush as peat moss, while he lay at the window,
almost breathless with pain. His eyes transfixed
beyond the amassed evergreen edge, taiga,
tundra, permafrost, whiteness upon whiteness.
Snow clouds heavy with winged seed,
the same air he had once inhaled like a forest.

by Laura Sobbott Ross

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 18, July 2010

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim