The scent of illness, stifling and spoiled
Masked by antiseptics.
Beeps and murmurs,
A ceaseless, mocking choir.
A man, my patient, lying in bed,
Unaware, frail, deteriorating.
How many days has he been here? I wonder.
Doctors and nurses marvel with each measured breath
Nonchalant about his death.
Something twinges inside me.
The never-ending tug-of-war with a difficult spouse.
We want to do our best for our patient:
To make him comfortable
To make it dignified.
Not knowing what he wanted
Makes it so hard.
In the midst of family grief
Grasping for control
Spouting hateful words
Yelling, crying, blaming.
In the background, a man lying motionless
Fighting with himself, his organs failing.
On the brink of something inevitable
Ready to go, but for the family’s grasp.
Poetry Thursdays is a weekly newsletter that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. This initiative is led by Slavena Salve Nissan at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Slavena.