Good Fathers

April 1, 2006
Volume 23, Issue 4

Poetry of the Times--Good Fathers.

-for James Daniels, MD (1938-2001)

We were three men alone in a ward room built for fifty, a film of dust on the floor, Dr Daniels and I scrubbed and sterile,
gloved and gowned, standing behind the patient, our only light drifting though the dirty glass windows. I performed the prep- Betadine soaked into a sponge, painting orange circles on the patient's back, the room filled with the scent of young wine poured too soon from the cask. Week after week we practiced on anonymous blue-collar veterans,
everything ordered and routine until that day Dr Daniels pressed the needle deep
and failed to find the spot, four times, five, finally giving up and passing it to me. I can still see the angle of the shaft
when I pierced the patient's skin, the thin shadow it cast on his back like a sundial, gold droplets of spinal fluid dripping into a sterile tube, the look Dr Daniels flashed me, just like my father's
that day he parked on the shoulder
at rush hour and handed me the keys. Dr Berlin is associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. Dr Berlin recently established the Gerald F. Berlin Creative Writing Award at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of only a few medical student creative writing prizes in the United States.