Art & Poetry in Medicine, Clinical, Featured, Internal Medicine
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To Preside

The following manuscript was submitted to the April 2017 Arts in Medicine Themed Writing Contest.

Shrouded in a plastic blanket
Raising the temperature of your
Frail limbs and famished core
Your eyes meet mine
In unspoken alliance.

The fluorescent lights
Mercury vapors dancing
In tubes above our heads
Illuminate our faces,
Your smile, my laugh.

Your cracked mouth says
I am bleeding,
Pausing between each word
Not for embellishment
But out of necessity.

Presiding over your body
I lift the blanket in ritual
Exposing your skeleton
Examining your flesh
Apologizing for the inconvenience.

In the middle of the night
In the timeless ICU
In June
We connected.
And you began to die.

Long days and short nights
The heat of Minneapolis summer
Asphalt breathing and buckling
Sweat wet on back and brow
Sunlight absorbed and reflected
Into the Chain of Lakes,
Holding our eyes until again they meet.

One month later
And across town
Back in the ICU
Your name returns
Your dry eyes blink
I am terrified,
A breathing tube
Snaked into your trachea
Extinguishes your voice
And makes mine silently scream.

Eventually extubated,
Our conversation turns
To code status.
No, you clearly say,
And I know your end
Will be beautiful.

Daily I return to your bedside
Grasping your withered hands
Not to feel for a thready pulse
But to hold you.

And you hold me in turn
Telling me of your life
Showing me your family
Teaching me how to die
Honestly and with hesitation.

Soon you slip into
Eyes flickering
Lungs rattling
Organs failing
Rallying your daughters to the bedside
In quiet vigil at the hour of return.

Fever dream of memory and regret
Moments pixelated and recognizable
Sounds muffled and crisp
Monitors silenced, permanently.
You escape the
Confines of this room.

Six weeks after our first meeting
Under fluorescent vapors
In a handmade quilt
Death comes
And it is perfect.

Dominic Decker, MD, MS Dominic Decker, MD, MS (2 Posts)

Resident Physician Contributing Writer

Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Dominic Decker is an English major at heart now training in internal medicine. He completed a master's degree in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, attended the University of Minnesota Medical School, and is in residency at Brown University.