Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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first code

9.13.19 // first code

“We kept him alive to let his family say goodbye,
and sometimes that’s the biggest victory.”
Your resident says this and you nod,
eyes fixed down, noticing how your hands are held
overlapped, palm to back, fingers interlocked
as if something inside of you has internalized
the feel of sternum under dense fat,
the lock of your elbows, slamming the weight
of the body down, keeping time to the song
sung in chorus by the monitors—a funeral dirge,
a death knell, breathing loud and labored
like you could somehow breathe for him, too.

You have never before done anything
to keep anyone alive. You are beginning to realize
that when people say “resuscitative measures”
what they really mean is violence. 

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.

Lee Schmidt Lee Schmidt (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Duke University School of Medicine

Lee is a second year medical student at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, class of 2022. In 2018, she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and neuroscience with Highest Honors in neuroscience. Outside of the hospital she enjoys running, yoga, singing, and shirking her responsibilities to go to concerts. After graduation, Lee plans to enter general surgery residency, eventually becoming a trauma and critical care surgeon.