Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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A Privilege to Chore

The many tables corral him,
All the people surround him,
A trained doctor he is not,
Giving up, he hasn’t thought.

As he works at the table,
He wonders if he’s able,
The room is loud,
He feels the crowd.

They are shouting in each direction,
He tests the arm in flexion,
The sinew and grit,
The tension, the pit.

His stomach turns,
His heart yearns,
The patient in front of him,
The wound gruesome.

He has seen it before,
Only three hours, maybe four,
He will spend and forget,
Go home, not yet.

He wrestles more than his mind,
He fights the culture, the grind,
Curiosity and wonder,
Persistence and blunder.

He feels mortality and death,
As he takes another breath,
Holding true to his profession,
He has yet another confession.

That he could have done more,
There is always another chore,
Because he has a responsibility,
To push his capabilities.

It’s not for him, he insists,
He does not try to resist,
The patient is his motivation,
As he prepares for his rotations.

What is he sacrificing for?
“Why?” He implores,
As much as he can take,
These are very high stakes.

He has the privilege to hold,
In his arms, a patient bold,
Pain rattles her resolve,
Her hope has dissolved.

He talks to the patient,
“It’s no longer latent.”
She already knew,
There is little to do.

“I want to be with my family.
I’m leaving this world happily.”
He searches for an answer,
No, not this cancer.

He looks up for guidance,
The voices are silenced,
There is no one in the room,
Only cadavers entombed.

They whisper to him,
“Do not give in.”
Sweet lullabies of life,
As he holds the knife.

He will fall,
As do all,
Only to rise,
Fire in his eyes.

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.


Nathan Sherman (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson

Nathan Sherman is a medical student at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson.