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Ensconced in His Throne Upon the Sea

Sonnet I: A Traveler of the Sea

I strode down hallways, winding ‘round to meet
A sailor old and take to him his meal.
A gentle bounce in every step on beat,
This home to many always builds my zeal.

His room I entered — knocking first of course —
And said then, “Mister Harold, pleased to meet!”
He turned to greet me, smiling, voice so hoarse.
“Hello, hello, my child! What’s good to eat?”

I spoke with him as fast an hour elapsed.
I heard his “hist’ry,” all about the sea,
Before he sat to finish his repast.
I queried Nurse Noëlle of things to be.

“A textbook glioma consuming his brain,”
She sighed. “One that now will not rest, nor refrain.”

Sonnet II: Ashore with His Child and Wife

He raised his head so weak and smiled at me
As I approached the man I came to serve.
“It’s great to see you, young’un,” perked up he.
“A lovely day,” observed he, full of verve.

His lucid state — relief for those near him —
And speech intact did make me feel at ease;
This sailor old was dear, a priceless gem.
“You know, I miss the warmth, the light, the breeze.”

He asked about my dreams and future road.
He asked about my quest for doctor’s oath.
I answered lithely, spoke of seeds I sowed.
“My family guided me, allowed my growth.”

“I see your shore: a bright and wondrous life,”
He beamed. “Like my own child and loving wife.”

Sonnet III: Waning Vitality, Waxing Courage

Delir’um boasts a state that’s hard to stand:
Its veil concealing all the face and soul.
I greeted him and shook his clammy hand.
He glanced at me — the cancer taking toll.

I took my place with him at his bedside.
I saw it: clear disease process at work.
His vacant stare did chill me, deep inside.
A pang of sadness stabbed me as a dirk.

He rubbed his head with such a trem’lous hand.
The tumor grown and drugs galore did cloud
A mind once sharp, alive, profoundly grand.
They stripped his vigor, drained all his endowed.

“Don’t worry, Mister Harold, I’ll return.
Tomorrow, six o’clock, we’ll chat and churn.”

Sonnet IV: An Asylum for the Caring

Away was I when fast his breathing ceased,
Away at home when ere he did contend.
A burning candle marked a life released
More than a cerement ever could portend.

The vigil over, knew I he had passed.
A nurse so kind embraced my shoulders cold,
And there I stood, still caught within a blast.
She handed me a candle lit to hold.

We solemn few then entered hallowed space
And soon prepared his form to be retrieved,
Concealing well his vessel left, his face,
Beneath a sheet opaque — the sleight achieved.

That evening moon, that candle’s flame,
The peace I felt, an empty room now tame.

Ashten Duncan, MPH, CPH Ashten Duncan, MPH, CPH (11 Posts)

Columnist, Medical Student Editor and Former Managing Editor (2017-2018)

OU-TU School of Community Medicine

Ashten Duncan is a third-year medical student at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A 2018-2019 Albert Schweitzer Fellow, he recently received his Master of Public Health (MPH) with an interdisciplinary focus from the University of Oklahoma Hudson College of Public Health. Ashten attended the University of Oklahoma for his undergraduate program, completing a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Microbiology and minors in Chemistry and French. An aspiring family physician, Ashten is currently on a National Health Service Corps scholarship. His research interests include hope theory, burnout in medical education, and positive psychology in vulnerable populations. Ashten is passionate about creative writing and what it represents. He has written pieces that have been published on and and in Blood and Thunder and The Practical Playbook. Ashten is currently serving as Associate Author for the upcoming edition of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.

The Lived Experience

As medical students, we sometimes lose sight of our purpose for going into medicine and feel that we are exerting ourselves excessively with little feedback from our environment. It is important that we remember that, while we are living through the experiences that come with our training, our future patients are also living through their own experiences. The focus of this column is to examine topics in positive psychology, lifestyle medicine, public health and other areas and reflect on how these topics relate to medical students, physicians and patients alike.