Dr. Paul
by Richard Layton

Quiet enveloping encyclopedic 
knowledge: "Worms are in the fish." 
Row a boat out on the Sound. 
A sunny day, sunburn. 
Plankton netted, 
brought in to the microscope: 
"A lifecycle stage for the worm." 

Cool silent forest, 
Pine smells, hot sun on our heads, 
Brown bark path winds, 
Stop again and stop again. 
Liverwort on the stump.
"Two hundred and twenty kinds known." 
Tiny details excitedly expressed.        

Quiet again on his knees: 
Dark moist fallen log. 
Busy, busy, busy beetles 
Nose down to them. 
Talking to them? No sound. 
"Over six thousand species known." 
Tiny details eagerly spilled. 

Quiet. Stop. Look. 
Massive black columns of basalt 
Up to the white blue sky. 
Row on row. Nose up. 
Two hundred fifty feet up and up: 
"Five-sided like dry mud. 
The raging cataract long gone."

Now tiny, tiny creatures. Orange,
Red lichen, hundreds known.
Patches of color, millimeters thick:
“Growing quietly for centuries.”
Quietly observing
Encyclopedic backdrop
To our giant world.

Go slow, the last night
Bright and cold
Our moment, one last martini
Twinkly and tinkling ice
Sip the cool warmth.
Tears, talk, cold, hold hands
My mentor, friend.

The glasses empty
A silent eye, quiet
Deathly quiet
The last quiet.

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Richard Layton has attended NSCC for six years, taking humanities, writing, and social science courses as a senior Access student. A 77-year-old retired Professor Emeritus in the Family Medicine Department at the University of Washington Medical School, his entire career in medicine involved taking care of disadvantaged people, first in rural Grandview, Washington, and later in the inner city of Seattle, teaching medical students and family practice residents.