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The child’s restful sleep is lost 

To the hisses of serpents and other seditious demons

Who hover above, then dart down and buffet her with the beats of bony wings,

Their brimstone breath and dripping talons burrow into the child’s amygdala,

Hurling her back to the place from whence she had escaped,

The cursed land of the awake,

Where she had waited for hours in rooms painted wilted-dandelion yellow for news,

For an explanation

Then a diagnosis

Then a surgical plan:

A tumor excision under general anesthesia,

Scheduled for today.


The child has been living nightmares.

This, then, is a gift:

She breathes in the gas,

Its scent is not nectar but not sulfurous, at least.

She breathes out,

Each breath caught by a sail,

Propelling her on,

Gliding lazily 

Along the shoreline in

Careless, Timeless, Dreamless



Image credit: Star reflection (Unsplash) by Johannes Plenio

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.

Brian Smith (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Stanford University School of Medicine

Brian Smith is a first-year medical student at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California, a member of the starting class of 2021. In 2019 he graduated from Stanford with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in English, and in 2020 he graduated from Stanford with a Master of Science in biology. He enjoys writing poetry and narrative medicine, as well as running and reading in his free time. In the future, Brian would like to pursue a career in anesthesiology or oncology.