Breaking the News

December 1, 1998
Richard M. Berlin, MD

Volume 15, Issue 12

Breaking the News - Poetry of the Times

Maybe he reminded me of my father,
the smile I knew was fear.
20 pack-years and a few months' cough
in a steelworker from Gary,
X-ray lit with a lesion
round and opaque as a silver dollar.
I wanted to tell him
to pull the curtain around us
and sit beside him on his bed,
to break the news
soft as a surgeon's hand.

But I swaggered and stood
like a half-drunk general:
You've got something in your chest
and we've got to open you up.

I can't remember his response,
just the flame in my cheeks
and our meeting months later,
his face the color of fly ash.
So much bone when he hugged me
like my father before he died,
his concern all for me,
the emptiness in my chest,
something opened up, forever.

© CME LLC
12/98

Read more of Dr. Berlin's work.