Humanist Voices in Verse:

This week’s poem is by Sylvia Ramos Cruz, who previously wrote the poem “Origins,” published in HNN in April 2012.

Ramos Cruz is a physician and surgeon, gardener and world traveler who loves words and what they can do. Her poems aspire to give voice to a moment born of her own experience that sparks an intimate thought in her readers.           

If you’d like to contribute original poetry to Humanist Voices in Verse, write to with “Poetry” in the subject line. Please send no more than three poems for consideration per week.


Inspired by Man in Cafe painting by Juan Gris, 1912

Alone in the elegant salon,
serenely posed, enthroned,
the cubist man looks in—
a study in gray.

Were it not for his fractured face
and the bile in his unseeing eye
he would be, from silken top
to well-shod toes, archetype
of the gentle man at ease.

Even in Neolithic times
shamanic surgeons knew
emotions reside inside the head.
They punctured human skulls, let
evil humors out to cure the gloom
of sapping melancholia.

I wonder if Juan Gris,
affected by his subject’s
air of quiet desperation,
performed a gentler trephination
that split apart his hat.

—Sylvia Ramos Cruz