The Stethoscope

Mar 30, 2016

Laennec was running late when he saw children send sounds through a wooden beam...

Laennec was running
late when he saw children
send sounds through a wooden
beam. And when he arrived
at the young woman’s room
that fall day, 1816, he rolled
a sheet of fine French paper
into a tube and “perceived
the action of the heart,”
suddenly snapping and crisp
after years with only his ear
sealed against each chest
hearing the music of moth wings.

           

Two hundred years and
a trillion heartbeats later,
the stethoscope is no more
than an ornament we drape
around our necks like a prop,
the magician’s wand, a tap
dancer’s cane. Less accurate
than an x-ray, less precise than
an echocardiogram, this antique
our pretext to bend over patients
as if we are praying, close
enough to feel their breath,
close enough to admire
all the clatter and commotion
each one holds deep inside.

Disclosures:

Dr Berlin is Senior Affiliate in Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. E-mail: Richard.Berlin@gmail.com. His most recent collection of poetry, PRACTICE, is published by Brick Road Poetry Press.    

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