Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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Death Reel

An Estonian hospital, June 2017

The doctor motioned to sit, turned a chair

to face the monitor. A perfectly lovely office.

Natural light from the barren window

gathered in circles around my feet.

These are pictures she said, and I knew

there was nothing emotional there for her.

Only facts. I’ve collected over the years

interesting cases of fetal abortion.

The folder clicked open and hatched

into my memory, unshelled itself awake.

Anencephaly, no brain she pointed

as a tiny red face appeared, almost

small enough to never have been.

Early trisomy 21. My eyes followed lines

across wrinkled, chokecherry palms.

This teaching moment deformed

into an unwelcome sideshow, every

morbid act more crimson than the last.

And this baby would have been born

without a hand. I stopped and clenched

my own. Life without would still be

life, would still be an abundance. The

delicate nub lay limp beside a ruler.

I faced away. A perfectly lovely wrist.

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


Steven Duncan (5 Posts)

Medical Student Editor and Contributing Writer

UT Southwestern Medical School

Steven is a third-year medical student at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas (Class of 2022). In 2018, he graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and Russian. He enjoys eating curry, writing poetry, and hiking in his free time. In the future, he would like to pursue a career in primary care and global health.