Art & Poetry in Medicine
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The Telling

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

I recall my father sitting on a small stool in the kitchen
dialing friends and family, one by one, rippling outward
to neighbors, acquaintances.

My mom got sick. She died, he would say, and I can still hear
the astonishment in his voice, as if it were a marvel,
not the thing that would cripple us for longer than we imagined.

I wonder if, in childhood, he heard his parents do the same,
when there was no choice but to spread news with one’s voice,
at most removed to the other end of the telephone.

I’m sure he hadn’t pictured himself in that seat, that role —
then again, nor did I, as I listened to his voice
gradually break.

Nearly always, it seems, there is need for explanation:
Here is what has been happening, one begins,
And now this [insert terrible thing].

There was going to be a baby, I say, And now
there isn’t. But instead of saying it, I type it, distance myself
through the letters. Hide my voice. Hide my tears.

Rebecca E MacDonell-Yilmaz, MD, MPH (4 Posts)

Fellow Physician Contributing Writer

Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University

Becky is currently a fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology at Hasbro Children’s Hospital/Brown University in Providence, RI. She completed her residency in pediatrics and fellowship in hospice & palliative medicine at the same institution. She received her BA and MPH from Dartmouth College and her MD from Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Her work has been published in Pediatrics, Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, and The Huffington Post, as well as on the blogs Kevin, MD and Mothers in Medicine. Her personal blog is entitled The Growth Curve ( She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two sons.