How Arrhythmia is Poetry

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.

A ways along a hall she sits
A light a bed a wall she flits
Back and forth, and forth fortwith
Her anxious hands attempting fists
“Just relax,” “my dear relax,”
Beneath her gaze and gown and pith
Her heart still pounds, resounds, and spits
And she’s reeling round
She’s reeling round, unfeeling ground
She’s steeling up her feelings while she’s wheeling round the corners of the building and the building’s
still unyielding with its somewhat plaster peeling and its fluorescence on the ceiling but it rallies round
It rallies round
A slight pinch
A sleight
And with ease and ever restfulness her breeze returns and evens up the score enough to just assure her
that the helping hands were helping and had never wanted that to happen

What inspired this piece?

My experience precepting in internal medicine.

Why did you choose this form?

The heart is a natural source of internal rhythm and wanted to reflect this in a poem.

How long have you been writing poetry? How did you get into it? How does it relate to your medical practice?

I have been interested in writing and literature since high school and at one point thought I might want to do creative writing as a career. However I became interested in neuroscience and medicine in college and through research. I think that art can still embody truths that science cannot.

Andrew van der Vaart is an MD/PhD student in his final year at Virginia Commonwealth University, applying for residency in psychiatry.

Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz

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