day 10: code white
i’m all for pushing comfort zones,
but he thinks his hand is a cellphone,
and i’m terrified there’s something that i missed
in our prior conversations,
he was better then.
we spoke of what led to him being here,
and he wasn’t drinking imaginary water
from an empty cup,
he knew who i was,
he knew where we were,
his eyes were in contact with mine
instead of scanning across the ceiling,
he could understand that these voices
and images were an extension of illness,
an illness that i either underestimated
he’s now standing on his bed,
the nurse is asking for an order.
day 8: consent and capacity
the first time we met
was on a friday,
and i hoped you’d be there
after the weekend.
though your eyes were downcast,
i tried my best to connect,
words seemingly bouncing off
a surface which depression has hardened,
incapable of transmitting light.
the words that i wrote on your chart
were selected carefully,
for fear of a future someone dredging
through these words at
morbidity and mortality rounds.
your spirits changed today.
and i know that’s what we wanted,
but the speed at which it happened
and your previous desire
to escape these surroundings,
and escape the surroundings outside,
makes me worried about
whether you’ve changed or
just learned the right words to say.
i hope we’re right in believing you.
day 6: how?
how do you handle the sick
and insane, the crazies
rocking back and forth
oblivious to surroundings?
the lunatics who slash
their wrists, or hide pills
while lying to your face?
the hysterics shrieking
at the top of their lungs
triggered by almost nothing at all?
how can you be comfortable
in a setting where the paranoid
think you are out to get them,
instead of treat them,
spy cameras in pens?
while the delusional,
who think they’re jesus,
question your beliefs, as they
claim to perform miracles,
turning oxycodone to wine?
how can you handle the psychotics
or depressed who jump from bridges,
or tie their necks,
or stab knives past their ribs,
in an attempt to reach their hearts?
it’s not as hard as you may think.
it’s a balance between those symptoms and
when you see them stop.
a smile, a look unfiltered
by mental illness, the warmth,
the way your heart swells when they say
"they’re tears of joy",
an embrace between temporarily
estranged father and son,
a word of thanks.
a life that can move forward,
thanks to you,
despite the labels of lookers-on.
day 3 : 1:1 observation
there’s a part of me that wonders
whether you’ll be here tomorrow,
all the supports in the world
can’t stop one once their mind’s made up,
messages in those forearm scars,
a helplessness expressed in a glance,
tears can run out,
day 2: thermodynamics
i’ve been here before,
and i know you’ve been here too,
and try as we might to not end up like this,
and i can count the ways that i tried to change but,
none of them seem true,
searching for solutions, i come up with nothing,
so we keep spinning in circles
like a child with a spirograph
sitting at the back of class,
ignoring lessons on math,
focused on how lines can interact
and intersect, there were
patterns we’ve learned to forget,
ashes, we’ve learned to protect,
lanterns, we’ve learned to just let,
dim, flames can’t stand the direct
wind, exposure to elements,
the first time we learned of that
concept, we were in contact,
is it so wrong that,
we be the last thing persisting?
resisting for so long, why stop now?
gotten past hurdles and haters,
we’re tracing circles still later,
there’s nothing that’s greater
i’ve seen the way that a mind can bend,
it’s all pretend, the pretence that
we’ll always stand, i’ve seen how
bones can break from simple falls,
we stand so tall and forget how this all
disappears in an instant,
there’s instances that continue to replay,
our sweat while we awaited the f-train,
we get so focused on left brain analysis,
but this is music, this is intuition,
this is emotion, this is the notion
that despite how small and meaningless
we seem, that there’s significance
in all of this coincidence, and it’s not
fate, it’s not some higher being
and blessed order, it’s even more,
it’s disorder, it’s the spin of
you and me, it’s entropy.
Day 1: restraints PRN q24h
i ran into a car today.
and saw a man get physically restrained.
cuffs on his arms, digging into skin,
as he cried out for justice,
and i can’t even begin
to think on how it was silly
to stress about damage to cars,
when something like damage can go so far,
and i’ll remember how quickly
anxiety can fade when replaced
with perspective in front of your face.
i left a note on that car with my phone number,
drowsily written words of apology,
i should have paid more attention,
i’m paying attention now.
there were fireworks last week,
and i swear i still smell them on our skin,
there’s a distance between us,
that i think we could fill in,
there’s a carousel spinning in the airport
i flew into, and i left baggage there,
there’s a hostel in osaka, a rooftop patio,
a can of asahi, remnant strands of hair,
all the preparation that went into this
feels like we studied for the wrong exam,
but these words seem familiar,
contact between our hands,
as we walked down sidestreets in Sydney,
i said i’d be leaving soon.
Though there are ways, from here, for us to meet again,
These homeroom hallways, coat racks and covvies will dissipate into memory, which itself will dissipate also,
There are moments that I’ve replayed, the ones worth keeping are sometimes supplanted by the ones I’d most like to forget,
When we leave this place, what will we hold onto with fondness? and how can we differentiate reality from rose tinted lenses?
Isn’t youth the most cherished attribute? The fumble of inexperience, the wonder of not knowing, the endurance and exuberance,
We know it best when it is gone, like footsteps from a cubicle that we were too scared to take, for fear of not moving on.
The Residency Project
I’ve finished my third year and poems 1-200 serve as the best summary that I could ever offer. As I pursue publication of the work as a collection, I thought it best to keep going. What follows is the residency project.
day 200 : “I’m just the medical student”
don’t be coaxed into “just”.
we’ve let this doubt proliferate
until it blossomed into abscess,
and though our silliness has lessened
in regularity, we still regularly
but ladders without lower rungs
are useless, and these rungs
transpose with time,
while we’re indefinitely stuck
in this grind,
just focus on the climb.
day 199: left right
we’ve lost track of pedometers,
walked miles down these hallways,
left, right, weaving at a surgeon’s pace
past patient family, empty wheelchair,
wet floor sign, these obstacles barely
register, we oscillate between zombie-state
and caffeine-hype, no in-between,
these new shortcuts help me avoid
knowing glances of passerbys,
the only envy i catch is that of
we’ve worked to get past frivolity,
redundancy, absurdity, and here we stand,
just hoping to get past,
just hoping to get passed.
day 198 : finals
we’re counting down the seconds now,
the outside beckons,
sounds of summer drown
out these pager rings,
and other things,
trying to think
of when we began
11 months ago, 3 years ago,
got more agos than places to go,
but that’s all we know,
these hands, these scrubs,
this smile, this love,
all remain unshaken,
despite near-breaking moments,
amazed at last
at the reward of patience,
but a rest station.
we’ve been holding it
for too long.
day 197 : mario
these daily obstacles,
chasms to jump across,
present multiple ways to fall,
we seek to make high score.
and though we’ve been close
to breaking, the end is near,
the castle awaits,
a flag to raise.
day 196 : richmond
meet me in ross park,
before the dawn mist rises
from here to be amongst the trails of planes,
set off for plains far from here,
let us go there next.
catch the condensation,
before it dissipates,
let the moisture
permeate these lungs as the
sun breaks through and
adds life to these surroundings.
surroundings which we yearn
day 195 : prednisone
i saw a child strangle from the inside,
tumour pressing on trachea,
steroid opening an airway,
a fragile temporary lifeline,
heart pumping against pressure,
cancer closing off venous return,
a raft of bed incline,
we expect this blood to flow,
we expect surroundings
to remain until we drown,
our strokes avoid shark traps,
tangled reef, tridents,
whirlpools, bermuda triangles
and siren call,
we control these surroundings
as best as we can,
and breathe above water
until we can tread no longer,
fading bicycle kick,
tide impossible to predict.