“All of It Was Majestic and Terrifying”

A Poem by Monisha Vasa, MD

This is part of the Medical Humanities Series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by our members. Do you have a poem, short story, creative nonfiction or visual art piece related to medicine that you’d like to share with the community? Send it to us here.

Image: Benjavisa Ruangvaree/Shutterstock

Fragile

In a different life,
I took scalpel to skin,
cut through fibrous layers of muscle and fascia
in bodies dead and alive.
I held a heart in my own hand,
felt its pulsating power.
I witnessed the first cries
of a baby being born,
and in the next room,
heard the final rattle sigh.

All of it
was majestic and terrifying,
bringing me face to face
with how little we know,
how fragile we are,
soft as the riverbed veins
that glow through our translucent paper skin.

Now I wield the scalpel
of deep compassion,
the CPR of Prozac,
breathing life, hope, desire
into dead spirits,
watch synapses spark and flicker.

All of this, somehow
no more or less important
than the medicine of poetry,
these words that are life too,
the stories that hold us
through eternal moon-less nights.
Whatever allows us to reach across
these widening spaces
and speak the truth however we can,
a knowing that all we have
in the end is each other,
my hand reaching for yours,
and the love that rescues us.

Monisha Vasa, MD is a board-certified General and Addiction Psychiatrist. She is in private practice in Newport Beach, California, and also teaches medical humanities and topics related to physician well-being at the UC Irvine School of Medicine. She is currently a scholar of Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, and enjoys playing with words on her blog. Dr. Vasa is a mother of two children, has a house full of animals, and enjoys long-distance running and mindfulness practices when she needs a break from all of the above.

Dr. Vasa is a 2018–19 Doximity Author. Read her previous Medical Humanities piece and a conversation with her about her creative work here.

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