The Veil of the Living

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.


I wear the veil of the living
Closing my senses
Humming along the void
Numbing hands pressed up against clammy wet walls
Dreaming of mining Gold in frigid wind snapping caves

Thoughts wander through and then come up for air in this belongingness place
Descendants carve with bone the rhythmic orbit
Flung from momentum forgotten to fade
Holding my breath my heart matches the ratcheted pounding of gravity’s hum

Cupped by the groove poured molten before me
The Canary shutters and closes its eyes

Heavy soot and fractured wings beckon
Far from the beginning conjured free
Flashbulbs of memory pop in my blind spots
Mist projects shadows
Shifting subtle noises to the trained ear and wholly uninitiated

I dream dreams of cocooned weightlessness
Spaces where currents mount
Untethered by those who dream dreams of old nightmares
The smell of the hose and the Honeybee Nectar
Stinger and Thorn and Lover and Queen
Blood and Sweet fragrance as One

Eyes of the Mother joyously smiling
Soft as the touch of the nearly untouchable
Waves as passing cars drone and heave

In I breathe and out again
Then Quiet
Then Still

What inspired this piece?

It came out freely but I feel it represents our journey as physicians. We all know the long arduous work ahead of us and at times it can seem impossibly insurmountable and lonely. The reality of the suffering we experience seems so far removed from our enthusiastic and idealistic beginnings, and yet we can become wholly transformed by the process with time and through positive thinking and imaginative dreaming.

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

Probably 20 years or so writing when the inspiration hits. I have some in a journal but most of them I have never shared. I have been painting for about 7 years now as well.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your involvement or views on creative arts and medicine?

I think that there are so many modalities we can use to heal ourselves and others. We as physicians must do our inner work to create health and balance for ourselves so that we can continue to serve others. I learned just as it takes many hands to heal a patient in the hospital, there are just as many ways to heal outside of the hospital. Visual art, writing, dance, music, etc., are all forms of prayer and celebration and should be respected as each individual relates through different senses. In the best of circumstances I firmly believe we can and should combine these healing modalities in order to have the best outcomes for all involved. The key is compassion and the expression is creativity. The feeling that people get from this is Love and can be very healing indeed.

Ronald Braun, MD, is an anesthesiologist and artist. He enjoys working at the intersection of his interests in and out of medicine and learning how they are interrelated.

Illustration by April Brust

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