"Lay Down Sally"

Publication
Article
Psychiatric TimesVol 41, Issue 1

"He’s dying on dialysis—I’ve known him since my first days as a doctor, and now he wants to quit..."

dialysis

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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.


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