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Air Hunger

His diseased lungs,
stiff like dry clay,
function like gills out of the water.

Shallow, rapid, noisy, panting.
He is hungry for air.

His pain is as reliable as evenings turning into nights,
his labored breathing commands his full focus,
droplets of sweat collecting
above his lip as evidence of exhaustion.
He is hungry for air.

The required fuel for each breath
erases pounds off his already shriveling body —
he looks different daily,
a cachectic body remaining.
The streaming sunlight reflects off the glistening
Lake Michigan waves through the window
and pours into the room,
enhancing the sharp angle of his cheekbones —
Sun, nature’s finest highlighter.
His clavicles jut out,
his neck muscles contract to help.
He is hungry for air.

Then, he says
he is too tired to continue;
the struggle is without respite.
He just wants to breathe.
He is hungry for peace.

Image credit: THE LUNG (CC BY 2.0) by SantaRosa OLD SKOOL

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.

Tulsi Patel (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Tulsi Patel is a second year medical student in the MD/MPH program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She graduated from Columbia University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in neuroscience and behavior. She loves listening to podcasts, visiting art museums, reading poetry, hiking, and running outdoors. Tulsi is excited to explore pediatrics and internal medicine while centering health equity by applying her public health degree, narrative medicine, and humanism in medicine.