Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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Hypertension Follow-Up

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
She keeps repeating herself.
Voice shaking, shivering, splintering.
Like the beams of sunlight sliced by the swinging burnt-amber leaves on the branches outside.
It’s windy today.

“Please don’t apologize” I fumble for the tissues and hold out the box.

Her twin sister died a few months ago.
She was 54.
She mercilessly rubs at her bloodshot eyes … her nose … tightens her fist around the tissue, and chokes
“I feel like she took half of me with her, you know? We did everything together.”
She turned 55 alone this year.
“I hear you. I’m so sorry … I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay dear.”

Silence envelopes us. I look down at my shoes. I look down at her shoes. Bedroom slippers.
A strangled laugh, “I’m sorry I just showed up like this, I get really nervous coming to the doctor’s office. It’s been a while.”
“No worries, please don’t apologize.”

“Her grandkids come over often. It’s hard for them because I look exactly like her, you know? The babies call me nana sometimes.” Her voice breaks again.
I nod, meeting her eyes, matching her breath.
She lays her hand on her chest. Without realizing it, I think I do the same.
“The family relies on me a lot. I’ve been trying so hard, so hard, to keep it together for them.”

“They’re so lucky to have you.”

The beams of sunlight waver again. The leaves tear off the branches this time, falling like rain. The birds are chirping now.
Is it hard work holding on with their little feet,
so the wind doesn’t knock them over too?
Do the mama birds teach the baby birds how to hold on?
Do they teach them how to let go?

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.

Habiba Ahmed Habiba Ahmed (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Habiba Ahmed is a medical student at UNC Chapel Hill SOM interested in going into pediatrics! She attended the University of Kentucky for undergrad, where she obtained a B.S. in neuroscience. She is passionate about kiddos, advocacy, equity and inclusion, social justice, narrative medicine, patient-centered care, and a good iced latte. She also loves singing and doing henna tattoos!