The Hotseat

Psychiatric TimesPsychiatric Times Vol 16 No 9
Volume 16
Issue 9

The Hotseat - Poetry of the Times

I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Hygeia and Panacea, and all the gods and 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.


Read more of Dr. Berlin's work.

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