Obituaries in a Medical School Magazine

Nov 01, 2007

Poetry of the Times

The section begins with a photograph

of a "Brain Surgeon Banker" who died

in old age from miliary TB. Back to

the Class of '36 each doctor's cause

of death is detailed with a pathologist's

precision-myeloproliferative disease,

interstitial pneumonitis, gout, the text

so different from the obits in our

local paper, where people always "pass"

after "a brief illness." No, our doctor

tribe wants data: we know where babies

come from and where the echo of their

first scream ends. And we believe

the particulars of our own lives will lead

to different outcomes.

          My eyes drift

back to the Brain Surgeon Banker's face,

nothing like the usual portrait of Death

cloaked in a black cape and clutching

his scythe. This time he sports a starched

white coat, stethoscope folded in his hand,

and a Parker pen's arrow clip attached to

his collar like Einstein's in the famous photo.

His eyes are rimmed with laugh lines, lips

sealed yet turned up in a gentle smile,

a face so warm and kind he could be

a colleague looking for new patients.

"Call me," he seems to be saying,

"I can make room in my schedule for you."

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