This poem is intended to bring to life the inner turmoil and conflict that so many of us live with on a daily basis, day in and day out, as we see so many patients with chronic, preventable diseases visit our emergency department in duress. It is a humanitarian piece reflecting the emotional conflict to which we all stand witness.
Shaman. Apothecary. Healer.
Medicine man. Physician.
I have many names.
Understanding of this art is held to the inner society:
“Lay” explanations can elude me often.
Your steadfast position on train tracks has become your home.
How my soul has grown weary in repercussion.
You Pink Puffers and Blue Bloaters
My heart breaks, as your lungs strive
for breath, every time you visit me.
I stand here clamoring to ease your suffering but my orifices burn from the acrid odor of your continued tobacco treatments.
You stand on train tracks and have
been there for ever and a day
Have you not grown weary and exhausted?
I feel the rumbling through my feet of a large locomotive in the distance:
Is it on your track?
You lost your fine feeling many years
ago so you don’t know.
Can you see what I see? Those large
puffs of black smoke in the distance.
You have seen patches of black for many years now; a long awaited consequence of your postponement of change.
For years I have pulled on you with all
my might but you won’t let go; you scream “I can’t!”
For years I have yelled at the top of my lungs that you need to move out of the way but you won’t budge an inch; your knuckles are white from your tight grip.
I keep getting an awkward sensation in the back of my throat and my eyes well
up with tears.
I cannot stand the idea of the aftermath when metal meets flesh.
I have seen it too many times before.
I fear that the aftermath is more for even my expertise to bear and you will be gone.
You stand fast.
As I toss in the night, I see pictures with bleak endings. The scenes are unbearable: patients, trains, and train tracks and I am not strong enough to move any of them.
When I awaken, the mirror holds my distorted reflection
Black circles from sleepless nights,
long gone is the passion that once
filled my eyes
The joy of the art has left me.
From here it is terminal for both of us: there has to be a better way.
No more sleepless nights
Who am I to force anyone to change?
I understand now, you want your free will as we all do in one form or another.
I will share my sense of that train heading your way and answer your questions.
I will describe the broken shells and the horses and men that will be needed.
I will offer my hand to help you down from those tracks
But unlike others before I will not abandon you: come what may.
If you choose to stand fast
In the aftermath, I will sound the reveille and will be the first at your side.
I am your physician and I will be blind.