A house of many rooms poems by Barry Zaret

picture of Barry Zaret
Photo by Rob Lisak.  

Barry L. Zaret’s new book, A House of Many Rooms, has received glowing pre-publication praise.  Thomas P Duffy, MD, writes that the book “is a glittering memory palace filled with treasures that capture, in splendid poetic words and images, ‘emotion recollected in tranquility.’ He adds that “Some of the rooms echo the New England pastoral tone of Robert Frost while others contain the murmurs of William Carlos Williams and shared lives in medicine. Undergirding the whole structure is a life lived in and by the wisdom imparted by a strong religious faith. There is nostalgia and a looking back upon a fulfilled life while accepting a sense of the ending. The work represents a late life style, a sublime artistry that will enchant and deeply move all those who amble through its rooms of poetic eloquence. A towering palace on a hill.”
  A house of many rooms cover image
  Front cover oil painting by the author (“Houses Near the Town Square, Arezzo, Tuscany”).

A House of Many Rooms is the third published poetry collection of Dr. Barry L. Zaret. The first, Journeys, was published in 2012 and the second, When You Can’t Do Any More, in 2017. His poems have appeared in Caduceus, Pharos, Long River Run, Journal of Nuclear Cardiology, and the Otis Observer.  Several of his poems have been set to music and performed in concert. In his former life, Dr. Zaret was a cardiologist and the Robert W.  Berliner Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine.  For twenty-seven years he served as Chief of Cardiology at Yale and at Yale-New Haven Medical Center.  He is currently Robert W. Berliner Professor Emeritus of Medicine.  He is internationally 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. Dr. Zaret is also an accomplished painter whose oils are part of numerous private collections and one of which appears on the front cover of his current book. 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 978-1-943826-81-0
First Edition, 2021
106 pages

This book is available at all bookstores
including Amazon
and can be ordered directly from the author:
Barry L. Zaret
37 Spoke Dr.
Woodbridge, CT 06525.
Send $19 per book
plus $4.00 shipping in CT
and $6 shipping outside CT,
checks payable to
Barry L. Zaret.





The stethoscope rests quietly
in an antique desk drawer.
Always at my side, but
now curled – a sleeping cat,
nose to tail.
At times the urge comes
to shake my lifelong friend,
to make it act again
as that special link
between ears and patient.
But desire soon passes.
Time has provided new means
to hear heart murmurings.


. . . Make yourself a heart of many rooms and bring
into it the words of the House of Shammai and the
House of Hillel, the words of those that declare impure
and those that declare pure . . .  – Tosefta Sotah 7:7


My heart is a house of many rooms,
enough for a hotel.
Some contain love’s wisdom,
rooms hung with blended tapestries
of past and present.
Others, rooms of wisdom
learned at life’s knee
or scholars’ feet.
Rooms of anger,
once intense, now resolved, 
and rooms where
bitterness still festers.
Rooms of pain
adjacent to rooms of joy,
connecting doors between.
Rooms of conflict and of resolution,
of rewards and of failure,
of discovery and of loss.
Rooms wanting revenge
and those forgiveness-filled.
Rooms for healing
and rooms where
illness thrives.
In one large room,
a tabernacle.
Inside, an ark
with two sets of tablets,
one whole, one shattered.

There is more to see.
Follow the stairs
that lead up and lead down.
My heart is a large home,
always accepting guests.



My life, a montage of images.
In the lab, nuclear images –
heart scans
showing blood supply
after isotope injected.
First done when young,
career beginning,
initial success.

Now daily practice.
Many patients studied,
all awaiting answers,
some anxious,
some resigned,
some seeming not to care.
Images read,
reports written,
work done.
All the while
knowing little
of those imaged –
their families,
their life’s poetry.
Will the tests trigger
new treatment,
concern, alarm,
fear or relief?
Days follow days,
pixels follow pixels
images follow images,
schedules filled and refilled.
Patients return to changed lives.
Unaltered readers remain in offices,
viewing more images
in two dimensions,
unaware of the humanity
behind each study,
quenching thirst
from half-filled glasses. 

Nuclear images, my profession,
nuclear patients, my soul.




Arise and bear witness
to the Tree of Life,
the Synagogue of Slaughter.
Awaken your computer,
turn on your TV.
Hear with your own ears
the thunder of
attack rifle and hand gun.
See with your own eyes
the blood -soaked rooms
where bullets silenced Shabbat prayer
and lifeless bodies lie like battered islands
in a tsunami of hatred.

Bear witness to
America’s Kishniev –
Pittsburgh’s pogrom,
where one man’s weapons
accomplished in minutes
what over a century ago
crazed Russian mobs
enacted in days.
View eleven stars
erected on the street,
each for a fallen
celestial child of Abraham.
Witness the candles,
crowded streets sobbing in song.

And how to go forward
after songs no longer heard,
guitars no longer strummed,
candles no longer lit,
burials completed,
shivas done?
Return to subways, to cars
and commute to shattered ideals?
Dance through life
in a masquerade of normality?

Not everything crooked
can be straightened.
Germs of hate,
are never eradicated.
They lie dormant
in homes,
storage sheds,
waiting for new tsars
to release them
on the unsuspecting.

Straighten only what can be made straight.
Let vigilance be our credo.
But guards at doors are not enough.
Memories will be a shield,
spirit and hope a fortress.
And next Yom Kippur,
when recalling our martyrdom,
include Pittsburgh.




The 25th day of Cheshvan,
over a century ago,
a family brutally murdered
while hiding from pogrom pillagers.
My father, aged 9, hidden elsewhere,
found the mutilated bodies
hanging from snow-covered forest trees.
Trading his warm coat for an oxcart,
he carried his family to their graves,
site unknown to this day.

On their yahrzeit
I stand to chant Kaddish.
My father died at 92,
his duty now mine.
The names resonate in the shul
Ben-Tzion, my grandfather, whose name I bear,
Bat-Sheva, my grandmother,
Reuvan, Golde, Huddel, my uncle and aunts.
Did the men fight to the end?
Were the women raped?
Did they recite the Shema before the end?

Only two photos remain –
my red-bearded grandfather,
looking much like Van Gogh,
my high-cheek-boned grandmother,
a paragon of Jewish beauty.
What would it have been
to celebrate holidays together,
to hold their hands,
to walk in Prospect Park,
to sit on their laps,
to hear stories of the old country,
to learn of life on the farm,
to romp with cousins on Brooklyn streets?



In memory of Risa Solomon


Time for a final visit.
Few days remain
after eight years of cancer.
She has survived undaunted,
far longer than predicted.
No more clinical trials,
no more new drugs,
no more hope.
Morphine the only treatment
as death’s angel grows impatient.

Despite the morning brightness,
the bedroom is darkened,
shades down, lights off,
Central Park vista obscured.
She lies quietly,
lost in large bed space,
quilt to chin,
only face and hairless head exposed.
Shrunken cheeks accentuate her nose,
a Goya etching.
Eyes closed, speech comes
weakly,  intermittently.
Odors of death, decay
permeate the room,
confirming cancer’s victory.
A large Briard,
her constant companion,
sensing the inevitable,
rests at  foot of  bed,
nose, face flat on carpet.

Kiss her forehead,
then goodbye.
Now reenter next room’s light,
as a mythic traveler
crossing from the Land of Death.
Brief words with her daughter,
descend to lobby,
then onto the street
filled with people
bustling into life’s day .




In the dining room
the two of us
at the long table,
joined by a silent chorus
from empty chairs.
Holiday eve Kiddush
echoes in the void.

In morning prayer
I face my computer,
now also an ark.
My words are whole,
I am not.
As liturgy streams,
I swim upstream,
yearning for
sunlight streaming
through stained glass.

This plague year,
a holiday unique.
An elegant meal 
on paper plates,
with vintage wine
in paper cups.
For the first time I am
a broken shard,
withered grass,
a shriveled flower,
a fading cloud,
a fleeting breeze.




A scuffed red shoe
sits crumpled
under the weight
of time and despair,
its bright color long faded,
its mate long lost.

Those heeled red shoes 
in the closet,
always waiting,
her anchor
and antenna,
ready to propel
to holidays,

In the freight car
they smirked when seeing
her red shoes on this trip.
She placed them
with the other shoes
outside the shower room.
The door slammed shut.
As her lungs cried for air
her final dance began,
this time barefoot.




Emerge from four hours of darkness.
Bright sun sears eyes,
pupils paralyzed by pain,
unable to constrict.
Gait unsteady, equilibrium gone,
liberated, starving,
yet unable to eat.

Freight car at museum entrance,
as it once emptied at Auschwitz.
Across the bay, in glistening water
Ellis Island stands mournfully,
a reminder that many more
should have found safety.
Instead, victims of quotas,
indifference, intolerance,
ending in ashes.

Find a taxi in rush hour chaos.
Board next train,
air conditioned,
soft seats, windows.
Lurch back to
a suburban serenity,
once thought safe.

JULY 4, 2019


My deck, 6 A.M.
Rhythmic bird callings
the only sounds punctuating
pond’s sleepful, serene silence.
Blooming mountain laurel abounds.
With leafed green backdrop,
a perfect pointillist canvas.

Foxglove, opened shamelessly,
beckon to buzzing suitors,
frenzied in their search
for nectared satisfaction.

Across the water, rising sun brightens
neighbors’ tree tops.
They glow golden – candles
atop the nation’s birthday cake.

Coffee mug in hand,
each breath cleanses deeply.
I stand before
a symphony of senses,
calmed and aroused.
Every day a celebration.