To Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Posthumously
Do you think you found the garden Adam fled?
Lush forests, a hundred billion neural trees,
synaptic calyces in fields like blooming hyacinth,
rolling rivers of reticulated ganglia.
And those skies! Ecstatic as any
on a starry night over Saint-Rémy.
You chased brightly coloured butterflies of the soul
and strained to hear the message of their beating wings.
Shhh. Can you make it out?
Beware. The serpent lurks here, too, in dendritic tangles,
and beasts too fearsome for your microscope.
author's note: (Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s original investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain made him a pioneer of modern neuroscience and won him a Nobel Prize. His drawings are as much art as science. “Like the entomologist in pursuit of brightly coloured butterflies,” Cajal wrote, “my attention hunted, in the flower garden of the gray matter, cells with delicate and elegant forms, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, the beating of whose wings may someday—who knows?—clarify the secret of mental life.” )
Brian Kates won a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award for editorial writing and a Daniel Pearl Award for investigative reporting as a reporter and editor at the New York Daily News. His book, The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady, was a finalist for Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award in non-fiction. Recent poetry has appeared in Poem and Red River Review. He lives with his wife in a house in the woods in the lower Hudson Valley.
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