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Ron Lands is a semi-retired hematologist at UT Medical Center, Knoxville, Tennessee and an MFA alumnus of Queens University of Charlotte. He practiced medicine for many years near the community in East Tennessee where he grew up and was privileged to treat strangers, lifelong friends and a few relatives. He has published short stories, poems and essays in literary and medical journals. A Gathering of Friends is an album of poetry snapshots inspired by his patients and other vulnerable people he’s observed during the random activities of day-to-day living.
A Gathering of Friends begins with a doctor’s take on a Mary Oliver poem, an invitation to enter a world balanced on the narrow edge between living and dying. Despite “step[ing] into the darkness,” the reader finds poems of caring, hoping, loving, and physical and spiritual healing. The poems are rich in details of the medical world, tempered with the concerns of a father, husband, son, friend, who is also a physician and teacher. ~Connie Jordan Green, author of Slow Children Playing and Regret Comes to Tea (Finishing Line Press); Household Inventory, Winner of the Brick Road Poetry Prize; and Darwin’s Breath (Iris Press).
Ron Lands’ second poetry collection, A Gathering of Friends, opens doors to spaces populated with people who too often go unseen. Merging the keen observation of a clinician and a poet, Lands creates portraits that compel readers to look closer instead of looking away. With compassion and precision each poem introduces another friend and serves as a monument to the lives of ordinary people and places. Lands’ poetry builds a community where no strangers reside. ~Donna Doyle, adjunct instructor, Cancer Support Community East Tennessee; author, Heading Home (Finishing Line Press)
Ron Lands has the ability to get to the center of a person with one startling image or turn of phrase. The characters who populate these poems are memorably revealed in their most vulnerable moments; they are complex people facing the simple truths of loneliness, fear, and regret. ~Susan Perabo
After Mary Oliver, Farm Country
Maybe you think medicine
is about healing and happiness.
I say my prayer,
put on my white coat,
my mask, open the door,
step into the darkness.
I have crossed the line,
entered the future.
Firestone Friday Morning
Swollen fingers barely hold
the pen he uses to scrawl
his name on the work order
while he wonders who chains
a nickel’s worth of plastic and ink
to a counter, like an old man
might rip it loose, store it
in an offshore pocket holder,
leave it for his heirs. He signs
for the entry level tire, no
warranty, gambles the extra hour
needed for the free rotation
and alignment won’t be a waste
of borrowed time, buys five
dollars-worth of ethanol free
on his way off the lot,
tank half empty, no guarantees.
The Memory of Old Jack
After Wendell Berry
From the window where his daughter parks
his chair, his rheumy eyes see the outline
of the house where he was born, his father’s
Model T parked beside the garage.
A breeze blows soft on his skin as he jumps
naked from Marney’s Bluff into the chill
of deep water, swims to the bottom
and back with a handful of mud
as proof. The marching band plays
“Pomp and Circumstance”
while he sweats in cap and gown
and waits for his handshake
and diploma. A troop train clatters
and shakes the rails. Its wailing
whistle fades across the river bridge
and disappears into the second World
War, leaving him lost in sound and fury.
He’s in the parlor of a Georgia civil servant
wearing a borrowed suit, standing
with a girl he used to know. The woman
who witnesses the wedding wears
her apron and a puff of flour in her hair.
He smiles and welcomes sons
and daughters who appear, then blend
into a collage of familiar but nameless
faces, who hold his hand and beg
him to remember things he can’t forget.