"We lower a plastic tray on his ribs as if food can stop the dying..."
Any Good Poem
Richard Berlin shares his poem "Hospital Food," which is featured in the May 2023 issue of Psychiatric Times.
We lower a plastic tray on his ribs
as if food can stop the dying:
cold potato scooped like a snowball,
canned spinach oozing green,
microwaved chicken thigh.
I’ve watched anorectic men clog
N-G tubes with brown rice
and Kombacha mushroom tea,
listened to wives plead
just make him take a few bites,
withstood lectures on macrobiotics
delivered by a Camel chain smoker.
No, I’ve never seen hospital food
stop the dying.
Some days, worn and hungry,
I take refuge in smooth noodles
glistening black beans and red chilis,
fragrant sips of jasmine tea,
sweet white sesame balls the size of prayers.
And I think about the sick men
dissolving like tailpipes in the sea,
what they long to devour,
how we die without appetite
and the way we live with hungers
that consume our hearts like another kind of dying.
Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 25 years in Psychiatric Times in a column called “Poetry of the Times.” He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. His latest book is Freud on My Couch.