The Hotseat

September 1, 1999

The Hotseat - Poetry of the Times

I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Hygeia and Panacea, and all the gods and goddesses...to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents...

-from the Hippocratic Oath

0700 and thirty housestaff collapse
like shipwreck survivors.
After 24 sleepless hours
of children renounced by Hygeia,
our eyes are drowned in shadow.
A few nod before he enters
ruddy-faced and rested,
white coat starched and spotless:
Dr. Harry, Chief of the mecca,
diagnostic wizard, the power
who can crush careers with a word.
He slaps a chest film on the light box
and hooks a bleary intern:
Tell me, doctor,
what is the shape of this child's ears?
Fifteen seconds, thirty, a minute of silence,
sweat weeps from the intern's forehead.
Harry scorches him with questions, relentless
until the smile when he solves
the X-ray's riddle like Aesculapius,
even kneads the intern's shoulders
as if soothing a bruise.

When I return to the floor I curse him,
work 36-hour shifts to earn his love,
and late in the day, descending
to Radiology with my own obedient students,
I slap a chest film on the light box
and demand they tell me
the shape of the child's ears.

© CME LLC
9/99

Read more of Dr. Berlin's work.