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.
it happened in the grocery store
at the height of the pandemic in new york p>
i had just finished a night shift
hollowed out under eyes
buzzing with coffee
hair wet from a shower at home p>
and there i was in aisle 5
the 7-year-old in me
really craving mac and cheese p>
and as i found myself reaching for the last box p>
i saw you from the corner of my eye
looking at the same lonely box
your weary eyes like mirrors of mine. p>
my mother had been bugging me
about being single more than usual lately p>
mom, we’re in the middle of a global crisis
and? would it kill you to put on a bit of eyeshadow? p>
i offered to give you the box
but you didn’t want to take it
reaching for a can of soup instead p>
how many did you lose this week?
too many, you say p>
me too p>
with my usual anxiety about this kind of stuff
overpowered by lack of sleep
will you come over for dinner?
my mac and cheese
your can of soup
maybe we’ll even throw together a salad p>
we could make a feast out of it. p>
What inspired this piece?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of significant challenge for the health care community. But somehow, there have also still been moments of beauty and joy. Celebrating the discharge of an ICU patient, a supportive call from a friend at the end of a long work day, and in this poem — a random encounter in a grocery store.
Why did you choose this form?
Poetry is my favorite type of writing. I love that poems allow us to say so much with so few words.
How long have you been writing poetry? How did you get into it? How does it relate to your medical practice?
When I was in second grade, someone visited my class and did a poetry workshop with us. I ended up falling in love with poetry and have been writing ever since. I've often come home from a day with patients and scribbled down lines about something that caught my attention that day. Writing has always been a cathartic and meditative experience for me.
Slavena Salve Nissan is a 2020 graduate of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She was introduced to poetry as a second grader, and it was love at first sight. Her work has been published in Hektoen International, The Healing Muse, Pulse, and The Pharos.