Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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There is a straight line from
ordering an ultrasound to obtaining
clear cylinders of red blood cells.
In such cases, diagnosis is easy. But, 
in other cases, crossroads ebb and flow.
The currency of medicine is balancing
risks and benefits. As the tumor lies
in our gloved hands, it barely trembles.

There is no straight line from
waiting for the diagnosis to lying on the 
operating room table. I know the
rise and fall of ribs, every layer of a beating
heart, secrets blossoming under glistening
muscle. Other things, I know nothing about.
How the body grieved becomes a whole new body.
Who comes and stays in the white, watery
mornings. The way longing presses up
against your chest, a prelude.

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.

Image credit: Empty vial 2-16-2011_02 (CC BY 2.0) by Wheeler Cowperthwaite

Ellen Zhang Ellen Zhang (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Harvard Medical School

Ellen Zhang is a Harvard Medical Student who is passionate about using writing as a lens to unravel the complexity of medicine, enhance empathy, and provide humanistic care. She enjoys hiking, baking, and exploring local cafes.