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Second-year medical student.
An early patient interview
at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Routine hernia repair planned, not done.
Abdomen opened and closed.
Filled with disease, cancer.
The patient is fifty-six,
a workingman, Irish
I sit with him, notice
the St. Christopher medal
around his neck.
Can't hurt, can it? he laughs.
I have become his friend.
I bring him a coloring book picture
that shows this thing, this unfamiliar
organ that melted beneath our hands
Leaving his room, crying,
I take the back stairs.
I find myself locked,
coatless in the courtyard outside.
by Kelley Jean White
from Body Language. © The Library of America.
courtesy of The Writer’s Almanac