Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
Leave a comment

first death

9.12.19 // first death

After hours of struggle, noise,
knife and clamp and lung flapping wetly
like a broken bird wing in an open chest,
there is this part, the dismantling: 
pull the drapes, strip the scene bare, reveal
under all the pulsing visceral flash
his face, gaze cast heavenward, mouth leaking bile,
hands curled in papal benediction
with thin rinds of blood beneath each fingernail —
dark crescents, moons photographed in negative.

You reach down to close the glassy eyes,
as much for your benefit as for his.
When he was born someone must have wiped the blood 
off of him and now, here you are,
cosmically underqualified,
closing the circle under fluorescent lights
with a wet lap and a green towel.

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.