I started writing this poem back in September shortly after our first days in the cadaver lab. I finished it as our last days wrapped up as means to reflect on my experience. It is titled Twenty-Seven, after our tank number. The poem is as follows (nerves get to me a bit in the performance):
My very first patient was a man of old age.
He swam in his silver, steel coffin
forever to be open
but in the eyes of his students never forgotten,
as I lifted the scalpel for the very first time my hand calibrated to his weight.
Like a scale,
bouncing between right or wrong,
measuring if these scientific pros outweighed my human cons-
the handle had to be heavier than the blade
because to hold on was harder than to cut through
and my hand just couldn’t handle
how heavy my heart felt at this moment
this was something my textbooks could not teach me.
This is a gift, they told us
and I have always been told that the present is a gift,
but in this present
I was too scared to open his present
even though I’ve heard of what was inside, how could
I tear through this
I wanted to save it.
That is what I’m meant to do right?
That is what I came here to do-right?
That is what this is all about right?
These are the lessons I must embrace,
To learn from my mistakes,
to hold the heart and see all the different ways it could break,
to lift the lungs and wish for all the air this person gave,
to cradle the brain and imagine every thought that contributed to this human race.
The moment my blade touched his flesh
I knew there was no return
but like him
I had to let go.
My very first patient was a man of old age
When I saw him he was already gone
but I visited him every week
with a bouquet of surgical instruments
and an awe for a temple built with magnificence,
and the more he opened up to me,
the more I learned.
That with every tug of a nerve
a human connection is what he deserved,
that his story was more than just history
and I’ve treasured his secrets once mysteries,
and to be entrusted with this responsibility
forever, I will be indebted
with the biggest lesson of humanity:
I have looked to the stars for so long
trying to see my dreams and aspirations
drawn clearly before me as constellations
but you have taught me we are all universes,
elegant, eloquent, enigmatic, ethereal
an art that is inimitable
just by being human.
and death is human
Death is human
In death you are still human.
Rest in peace.