"He’s dying on dialysis—I’ve known him since my first days as a doctor, and now he wants to quit..."
POETRY OF THE TIMES
He’s dying on dialysis—
I’ve known him
since my first days as a doctor,
and now he wants to quit.
I’ve been called
to write the sentence
that says he understands
the meaning of “no.”
Seated on the corner of his bed,
I test him with questions
until Clapton rocks the radio
picking “Lay Down Sally,”
and I drift off, thinking
this is one more riff I’ll never master.
Though my white coat touches his gown,
he sees I’m gone and calls me back:
Remember when Clapton was God?
And we’re in the days of Blind Faith,
comparing calluses on our fingertips
earned from playing “Layla,”
and we agree dying is easier
than learning guitar. Yeah, he laughs,
you don’t even need to practice.
We talk music as he fades,
his soft breathing a gentle strum.
A nurse hangs the morphine.
I write my blue notes.
Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 26 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.