Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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As a Phoenix

Gas leaks in garages,
Seizures in scalding showers,
Collapsing into campfires,
Backyard barbecues with hot oil,
Cars that crash.
These simple realities
Now become profound catastrophes.

The injuries are obvious — crystal clear
Like bright flames in darkness,
But I worry the intangible inferno
May scorch your psyche indefinitely.
I read “no past medical history”
Next to an age exactly like my own.
It could have been me in your bed, 
My life upside-down thrown.

Embodying empathy and compassion
Is an ideal we always seek.
But the isolation you must feel
With your wounds, your pain,
Forces me to accept this truth:
I cannot begin to try to understand.
But I still choose to reach out my hand.

Dead eschars are excised.
Skin grafts grow like flowers —
Repotted for new life.
Wound edges close.
As a hopeful spark ignites
From the ashes that brought you here,
You will not forget your flames. 
I must not forget your tears.

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.

James Burden James Burden (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

UT Houston/McGovern Medical School

James is a third year medical student at UT Houston/McGovern Medical School in Houston, TX. In 2019, he graduated with honors from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in biomedical engineering and a certificate in Core Texts & Ideas. He enjoys running, video games, and exploring coffee shops and museums in his free time. After graduating medical school, James would like to pursue a career in pediatrics or child psychiatry.