Art & Poetry in Medicine
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Meditations on Family

Ode to Friendship

What blessing it is to have a friend!
Few joys compare to this, than to wake
knowing one’s heart is by blood knit
to three brothers, and by love to thirty more.

For a friend is a brother found, a spirit
kindred tried and proven to be pure gold
in common forge of life — through thick
and thin he stands firm in shared fidelity.

His word has the authority of a father,
his premonition the clarity of a mother,
and yet he does not test nor conspire,
he seeks no gain from his love for another.

And thus it blossoms, this great grace of God,
in mutual exchange of thoughts and time —
gifts no coin can purchase or combine,
save the gems of presence returned twice.

Thus the joy of one becomes the joy of other,
the burdens of one’s pain made light by many.
Thus true compassion is born and broken
as is bread at our common meal.

I would fail to know the world’s breadth,
nor believe in ability of another to care
to such depth — the goodness we are capable of —
if it was not for the many days of your friendship.

Let us then grow together beneath this sun
which gave light to many of our dark days,
and when the years take away our youth,
as an oak may this friendship stand, ancient and majestic.


In Another Life

In another life I would go anywhere,
and say hello to all I met — there would
be no goodbyes, no last kisses, just
good nights, dreams melding into day.

In another life there would be no longing
for yesterday, but joy from every tomorrow
yet to be played, as if a song plucked fresh
from the guitar of happy days, sweet in my ear.

In another life my heart would fearless fly
to those I wished to love, and every look
would blossom into touch, an ecstasy upon
my lips, a star caught in that brilliant blue eye.

So let not the dream fade in the morning light,
let not desire dissolve into the creeping tide,
of day after day which brings us closer to —
What? To the pure gold of quarter life.

In this life then I will walk the Earth,
fly as the birds, swim like the fish, take
what is by birthright mine: the sun and sea,
the sky and all that lies beneath the blue.

In this life I will laugh and cry, sing and
stand silent, I will fail and learn, win,
then win forevermore, grasp at that which
wisdom makes glisten, and nothing more.

For in this life I have many lives to live,
a path to choose for eternity, a step to make
here and now: before the ages hence I stand
ready and resolute upon the shoulders of God.


A Brother’s Blessing

Step fearless into your future, Adam!
Today you touch the ocean of adulthood,
and though its wave be cold and tide
unforgiving, mount your ship boldly!

For as pleasant were the golden shores
of childhood, how more glorious is that
endless reach of sapphire upon which
rises morn, bursting with untold promise!

You need nothing but courage and blessing
for this odyssey to happiness — a courage
long ago placed in your heart by Mother
and Father, who left across the great water.

Now, may this blessing play in your spirit,
in the gloom of despair and the shine of joy:
From God you came, and to God now return,
slowly, in the dance of thirty thousand days!

May He the holy thirst of your soul quench
in the love of your Eve, a heart made whole
at last, the beginning of many generations,
a life-giving promise fulfilled in new family!

May that treasure a thousand precious virtues
beget, to shine as the multitude of stars,
serene above the stormy sea, and guide you
to the haven, long ago prepared for your rest.

And know that in this voyage hands in Heaven
and hands on deck are ready for the command:
Only call, and we arrive, for blood obeys blood,
faithful to the end, against the world’s onslaught.


Song for My Father

If I could tell you all the dreams I had
and all the hopes that paint my future days,
all the smiles that ever unfolded upon my face,
you would remember them all, and more.

You could tell me how I felt in your arms,
the first time I opened my eyes to see the world,
to witness me and Mother in your loving embrace,
as I took my first step to school, to college, to work.

And I know God wishes you to gaze upon
the splendor of a century, filled with His Glory,
to shine as does the sun upon our happy days,
when you lift your grandchildren, as you did us.

For the days will come when you will teach us
that selfless love, the love that moved mountains
for Mother, that built our home, that taught us
how to heal and bring justice to the world.

We will pray to gain at least half the wisdom
your heart holds, a wisdom learned through
hard work and many lives, guiding our heart
as we, too, first hold our sons and daughters.

When the darkness comes, and all in endless
stream of tears will flow, the torrent of sorrow
will be stopped by your hope, which brought you
beyond the ocean, into the life you gave as gift.

My debt to you I will repay, a life for many lives,
to the generations that will know you by song,
by legend, by your dream that will be their reality,
rich with the happiness that only a Father can give.


The Neonatal ICU

Have you seen faith move mountains,
or love part the sea? Have you seen
death expelled by hope, life restored
by any power hiding in human heart?

Not mountain, but heaven and earth
I have seen shaken by a Mother’s
unyielding love, and lifeless limb
by a Father’s faith over incubator.

No bolder warriors than these infants
have I seen, undaunted in the face
of the hungry Reaper, who quivers
with every pounding of their hearts.

Here, in the dawn or dusk of life,
in the purgatory of doubt, one truth
to light emerges: this our boundless
capacity to love, our divinity’s sign.

And even if intellect’s power fails,
or prayer of miracle is answered by
the angel of death, it is enough to
have loved to the end, without reserve.

All the rest to God’s Hand returns,
to be awoken to the deathless day,
when no more tears will fall upon
our cheeks, nor fears cloud our souls.

Till then advance our banners into
the kingdom of disease, and reclaim
the generations no more condemned
to die, but cured for the glory of God.

Adrian Poniatowski, MD Adrian Poniatowski, MD (2 Posts)

Resident Physician Contributing Writer

University Hospital of Krakow, Poland


Adrian Poniatowski is native New Yorker and a physician poet. He studied history at Cornell University before going on to finish medical school in Poland at Jagiellonian University. He received an appointment to stay on at his alma mater as Lecturer in Pathophysiology, in addition to his duties as an intern physician at the University Hospital of Krakow, Poland. He draws inspiration from his Catholic faith and long walks spent meditating on the sublime beauty of daily life. His artistic motto is Ars neptis Dei, a paraphrase from the Divine Comedy proclaiming that “Art is the granddaughter of God.”