Tender Fences

Psychiatric Times, Vol 39, Issue 1,

"...barriers that create space for healing placed close enough to hear everyone’s cries of longing and love..."

POETRY OF THE TIMES

-for JG

I’m revising my med student lecture notes

on Models for the Doctor-Patient Relationship

and the attitudes I want them to master: detached

concern, therapeutic distance, good boundaries.

But something is missing from my models,

and I think back to a post-op dairy farmer

too weak to milk The Girls, and his neighbor

who cares for them in a barn a mile away.

For weeks they cry out for family and familiar stalls,

and my patient cries with them, But as I got better,

I missed my Girls even more, and one night

they escaped from my neighbor

and wandered back home. He laughs,

It’s a good thing my neighbor has tender fences.

Yes! Tender Fences, will be my model—

barriers that create space for healing

placed close enough to hear everyone’s

cries of longing and love, a boundary

strong enough to hold tight before it bends,

yielding in time to get back home.

Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 24 years in Psychiatric TimesTM in a column called “Poetry of the Times.” He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts.