Confession

December 1, 2007
Richard M. Berlin, MD

Volume 24, Issue 14

Poetry of the Times

Nine over six mullioned windows,
votive candles lit and flickering on the sill,
shells shipwrecked on top of the double-hungs,
condensed steam clouding each pane,
blocking my view of wind-bent junipers,
yellow-shafted flickers, and the sea.
This is the altar where I worship
and pray for mercy for my failings-
cool distance, the occasional lie,
how I hide behind my white coat's
illusion of purity and perfection,
the thin cotton cloth just
thick enough to cloak my cruelty.

My prayer is to remember the healer
I yearned to become when I started
my studies, before I learned
how much suffering can be buried
in words like bacteremia or bauxite lung,
before my father died and I witnessed
his physician's arrogant sting,
a time when my goals seemed as close
as the green hilltop on the island
across the harbor. What I couldn't know
was the numb, senseless feeling
that comes with a thirty-year swim
through a half-frozen sea, the current
hammering head on, the hilltop
still visible over the unforgiving waves.