The Solitary Oak on Mount Kremlin-Bicêtre

The Solitary Oak on Mount Kremlin-Bicetre

                       for Jean Lapresle, the first French neuro-pathologist
On Bicêtre Mount a stately oak did spread its unmeshed 
     boughs to swarms of sparrows beating retreat             
To turtle-doves and flapping pigeon-mates a frolicksome
Where now on thunder-split crutches hop the mocking  
Its black upturned tail uppity down high-domed arches’
     smooth-shorn limbs
Desolate within chilled-threaded casements of fading
Sleek crows guard the sentinel post where gentle souls
      tread lonesome
Once his benign fiery eye caught the tame light in lame
    downcast distress
Novice and apprentis sorciers sought the shelter of his 
    umbrella wing
The charge-nurse at his beck and call
Under the official seal of his high personal chair
Now the lordly craftsman called to lay down his tools in
     honorary quack contempt
By some aging loyal birds    too meek to fly away
Too lame to avoid the headlong charge down tearing fate
Had him appear in white blouson for the nonce’s sake
No nurse to jump at the phone’s end 
No student his ears peeled to every question
No professorial stamp at his command
“You know he takes no new patients…”
The voice trailing hoarse and dead
Carting rough brown bulky dossiers in his failing arms
     A Visitor in his home
Nay  A  thief in his fiefdom
He stalks a room    any room for a moment’s reprieve
The hand now shaky
The date a tussle with memory
Then the long unnoticed wait at the central desk
To ask for his patient the next bi-annual appointment
            Like a patient 
A whole life ministering to other personal needs
“When you no more have the charge of the place…”
His eyes want to plead in lieu of apology
Then abruptly the bi-annual rendez-vous is blocked
No excuse    no reason is proffered
Only by chance you surmise
              The frail fallen oak lies limp in some forsaken lot
(c) T. Wignesan - Paris, August 1, 2004
(from the collection: Words for a Lost Sub-Continent)

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