Art & Poetry in Medicine, Clinical, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics
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Atrophied Dreams

This manuscript was submitted to the April 2019 Arts in Medicine theme issue.

Author’s note: This poem was inspired by a parent and his son with a terminal genetic illness.

I waited for nine months to meet you.

I know that one night I loved a woman and then you, a blackberry of cells, found your place in her fertile garden and you grew there, safe, content, nestled in a long embrace with the earth that nourished you.

I know that you kicked hard as you grew, I saw her silently wince, and I wondered if I would mark the inches on the side of a door and rejoice when you surpassed my six feet.

I hadn’t seen you yet, but I knew that you would inherit her wide cheekbones, perhaps my hazel eyes. I knew you would be beautiful; a masterpiece painted with the different strokes of two artists.

And then you were unveiled in a curtain of blood, in a chorus of cries, squirming, upset at being wrenched from your sanctuary to a cold, unfamiliar territory; and I was scared, scared of this new love that gripped my senses.

To my eyes you were perfect. The blood on your shoulders accentuated your pale skin. The shrill cries made me marvel at the miracle of your lungs that began their life-long shift, methodical and inexhaustible.

It turns out you had a flaw, though I did not see it at first. The author of your life story made an error; whether by malicious design or unintentional fault, I do not know or understand.

I learned at your beginning that your end would come much too soon and with much hardship along the way. And I began to suffer, believing that the rough sketch of our life together would remain incomplete. Perverse dreams of a reality that would never be realized, shriveling, wasted in the prison of my mind where they were born and where they would die.

But from acrid ashes a new dream unfolded with expectation. With an expiration date in mind, I would be with you, every second together suspended in the void of time, like a precious stone sparkling with the knowledge that value is born from its scarcity.

Image credit: Rain and Gloom” by A_Peach is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Shirin Karimi, MD Shirin Karimi, MD (2 Posts)

Resident Physician Contributing Writer

Cambridge Health Alliance

Originally from Madison, Connecticut, I got to experience a dynamic college experience as a Literature major at American University in Washington D.C. I served as an editor for BleakHouse Publishing, a press dedicated to using the arts to showcase the humanity overlooked in the incarcerated population. As a volunteer in a pediatric cancer ward, I was intrigued by the sentiments of cancer patients and their caregivers, whose descriptions of isolation in the hospital echoed the loss of identity and entrapment within a prison cell. From this experience, I was fortunate to publish an original book of poetry, Enclosures: Reflections from the Prison Cell and the Hospital Bed, taking on the voices of those imprisoned in the justice system and in the shackles of illness. I returned to my home state to attend the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and delved into my passion for the medical humanities through the Arnold P. Gold Humanism Honor Society, research in cancer screening and immunotherapy, and serving the homeless population of Hartford as a member of the Board of our school-run medical clinic. I’m honored to be a third year resident in Internal Medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, MA and to work at an institution that values medicine as an avenue to promote social justice.