When you can't do any more  Poems by Barry L. Zaret

picture of Barry Zaret
Photo by Ralph Maldonado.  

Barry L. Zaret's second poetry collection, When You Can’t Do Any More, is again informed by his work as a cardiologist, his enormously generous spirit, his love of the arts (he is himself a fine painter whose work appears on the front cover of his book), and his passion for the natural world, in particular the Berkshire Mountains, where he spends much of his time.  About the book, Victor Altshul has written, “The title poem of Barry Zaret’s exquisite new volume of poetry is maddeningly modest and full of unconscious irony. Purporting to describe a physician’s feeling of helplessness toward the end of a patient’s life (Zaret is a renowned cardiologist), it actually reveals a human being of almost unimaginable warmth, generosity and largeness of spirit, a man who, thinking he does little, does it all. And so does the rest of this wonderful collection, which eloquently celebrates the author’s devotion to his Jewish heritage, mourns the loss of patients, dear friends and a beloved wife, and celebrates the dawning of new love and renewed hope. All this is rendered in language of simple and lyrical beauty. In ‘Anthem,’ for example, he is thankful for ‘my rivers/still flowing; / for the years, / still coming; for my sea, / still filling...’ And so, happily, are we.”
  When you can't do any more cover image
  Cover painting by the author.

Dr. Barry L. Zaret’s first poetry collection, Journeys, was published in 2012. His poems have appeared in Caduceus, Pharos, Long River Run, and Journal of Nuclear Cardiology.  Several of his poems have been set to music and have been performed in concert.  In his other life, Dr. Zaret is a cardiologist who has been on the faculty of Yale University School of Medicine since 1973.  For 27 years he served as Chief of Cardiology there and at Yale-New Haven Hospital.  Currently he is the Robert W. Berliner Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Senior Research Scientist, and continues to see patients, teach, write and mentor.  He is recognized for his pioneer research in the development of nuclear cardiology, and has written or edited five medical texts, one of which is in its fourth edition, as well as several hundred scientific papers and book chapters.  He was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Nuclear Cardiology.  He has received many awards for his scientific work and is a member of several honorific societies.  He is an invited blogger for the Huffington Post, where he writes on humanistic aspects of medicine.  Dr. Zaret is also an accomplished painter whose oils appear in numerous private collections.  He has exhibited in New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut as well as in the Berkshires.  He and his wife Renée live in Woodbridge, Connecticut and East Otis, Massachusetts.

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ISBN 978-1-943826-41-4

First Edition 2017

6" x 9" paperback, 82 pages

This book can be ordered from all bookstores, including Amazon.



Copyright © 2017 by Barry L. Zaret



In memory of Abe and Zoia J.


For decades Zoia joined Abe
for every office visit,
the two a unit.
Despite short stature,
the elderly couple
projected the strength of giants.
Both had survived the Shoah
as youngsters,
fighting Nazis with partisans
in frozen Polish woods.

Zoia always arrived with a gift
of her freshly baked mandelbrodt,
the shetl biscotti equivalent,
sweetened by apricot jam,
its outer crispness
balanced by inner softness—
a taste so special I reserved it
only for Shabbat dessert.
Mandelbrodt, a special payback
for my care of Abe.
Her routine persisted
until Abe died.
Zoia followed him months later.

Treating Abe’s scarred heart was easier
than dealing with scars of his past.
He could never assuage the pain
of family loss.
Forever burdened with grief,
he still enjoyed retelling
his survival stories
of youthful courage.
I listened rapt,
like a child on his knee.
Unlike Abe,
Zoia required prompting
to retell her harrowing past.

I stood at both their open graves
and recited Kaddish with the family.
The taste of mandelbrodt
lingers on my lips.


For Isaac Zaret


He speaks excitedly on the phone.
My grandson, not yet six,
just given a new blanket.
He names the blanket Myrna,
for his recently lost Grandma.
Wrapping himself in it
soothes his loss,
keeps her close to him.
When we end our call
I’m too choked
for proper goodbyes.

Thank you dear Isaac
for helping me cope.
Sleep softly
with your blanket named Myrna.
Sleep soundly,
engulfed in your tallit of memory.



I like walking back roads,
the type that narrow
when asphalt ends,
where unseen rocks
cause my ankles to turn,
where sand and pebbles
fill my shoes.
I welcome  the isolation
of back roads.
Familiar scenes are refreshed
and new sights appear.
The unexpected stirs me and
I reconsider the route home.



Early May morning,
intense solar rays
even at this hour.
On the balcony
morning greetings
of bird song
and traffic growl.
I squint in homage
to sun’s brightness
and clear air
so spiritually saturated.
Old City walls
glitter in the distance,
quietly singing
long before tourists.
My tallit around me
accentuates the heat,
my tefellin so tight
arm markings
will remain for hours.

Words come quickly.
Prayer is easy here,
like calling a friend
across the alley
of my Brooklyn youth.


Chaim Gross fantasy drawing


I await you tonight
beneath a spider web chuppah
held aloft by
grinning satyrs
and reverent chassids.

Walk to me slowly.
With each step
my madness flames
as your two fawn breasts
rise rhythmically,
seeking to escape
encasing white linen.

I stand cross-legged,
yearning to feed
among the lilies.
The forest spins
and the scent
of pressed gabardine
mingles with sweat
in the estrous spring.

You gracefully circle me.
With each circle
my passion soars further.
I am a gazelle,
coiled in the cool grass.
Desire’s pulsation
loudens and deafens.

Sip the wine,
then a promise of love
according to laws
of Moses and Dionysus,
made by a God
who fashions
spider webs,
sweet thighs,
and hooves.
I break the glass
into fragments

that splinter generations.

Later, in the hall
satyrs and chassids
dance together.
Furred moths enter
through open windows,
searching for
sweets and light,
obeying tropisms
in the warm spring night.



My nostrils suffused
with paints’ fragrances,
my skin bathed in
windowed Berkshire light,
my oils give life
to pale canvas,
dimensions to flat image.
I move back and forth
before the easel,
dancing to Leonard Cohen.
After sailing
through heavy storms
and buffeting winds,
the homeward dove
has again found land.