Richard M. Berlin, MD
—for Chris Fitzpatrick
We wrote through the night,
between moonlight and morning,
admissions and discharges,
wrote when phones stopped ringing,
when pagers stopped paging,
when we wanted sleep but sleep wouldn’t come.
We wrote in call rooms, cafeterias,
wrote by blue fluorescence
and the glow of an iPhone flashlight.
We wrote through exhaustion, revived
with caffeine to write about shame
too shameful to own, hoping words
on a page could soothe like confession.
We wrote while women labored hard,
when men carved rage into their wrists,
wrote after procedures, prayers,
delirium and pain, wrote in the quiet
space when morphine stops the moaning.
And we wrote after pronouncements,
searching for words to steady our hands.
We wrote progress notes, poetry,
a play, wrote every fourth night,
because that was the schedule,
because this is our profession
and the life we chose before
we trusted the granite in our voices.
We wanted to get it right,
to remember relief at sunrise,
a newborn’s cry, someone’s last words,
betadine’s sweet bouquet, patterns
coffee stained into scrubs
and blood’s slick feel on our gloves.
We were raw, opening ourselves
to chaos and mystery.
We were writing,
writing down to the bone.
Dr. Berlin is Senior Affiliate in Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. E-mail: [email protected]. His most recent collection of poetry, PRACTICE, is published by Brick Road Poetry Press.