Poetry Thursdays
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The Weight of a Smile


There are such powerful tools in the world today:
From life-saving medicines to just cool ways to play.
Tools of language and tools of trade,
Tools to kill or grow your skill.
Some serve to offend while others defend.
My tool of survival comes at no cost —
But take it away, and I’m utterly lost.
What is this precious gem you ask?
Would you believe me if I said it was
Something as simple as a smile?

I’ve thought about this for quite a while:
How much I owe to just a smile.
Through times of pain, sometimes to refrain
Times of fear or when I want to disappear
I plaster a smile on my face
And that becomes my saving grace.
The most powerful of masks
Protecting me from the present, future or past.
Warm and inviting — a smile draws people in
And brings them to you like prey in a daze.
The same smile, stubborn and persistent
Keeps them at bay, keeps me untouchable, distant.

After a long day of disasters, my mentor asked,
“How can you still be smiling?”
My answer was easy: “I never stop smiling.”
And he glowed with a pride, admiring some illusion
Of a perceived strength in my answer.
Little does he know of the frightened girl
Cowering in the shadows of the light of her smile.

Scared to disappoint, scared to lose
Scared to show pain, scared of being used
Scared to be weak or seen as a freak
Scared to say yes, scared to say no
Scared to stay still and even more to grow.

When you’re terrified of every piece of life
Coming at you from every side
The easiest thing to do is to flash a smile
And wait. Wait for all of your fears to subside.


Poetry Thursdays is a weekly newsletter that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. This initiative is led by Slavena Salve Nissan at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Slavena.


Nisitha Sengottuvel (1 Posts)

From Columbus, Ohio and graduated from The Ohio State University. Now pursuing a Genetics PhD studying Lung Cancer Metastasis at the University of North Carolina as a part of an MD/PhD program. Enjoy hiking, painting and singing in my free time.