We Wrote

February 21, 2018

We wrote through the night, between moonlight and morning, admissions and discharges, wrote when phones stopped ringing, when pagers stopped paging. We were raw, opening ourselves to chaos and mystery...

Richard M. Berlin, MD

-for Chris Fitzpatrick

We wrote through the night,

between moonlight and morning,

admissions and discharges,

wrote when phones stopped ringing,

when pagers stopped paging,

when we wanted sleep but sleep wouldn’t come.

We wrote in call rooms, cafeterias,

wrote by blue fluorescence

and the glow of an iPhone flashlight.

We wrote through exhaustion, revived

with caffeine to write about shame

too shameful to own, hoping words

on a page could soothe like confession.

We wrote while women labored hard,

when men carved rage into their wrists,

wrote after procedures, prayers,

delirium and pain, wrote in the quiet

space when morphine stops the moaning.

And we wrote after pronouncements,

searching for words to steady our hands.

We wrote progress notes, poetry,

a play, wrote every fourth night,

because that was the schedule,

because this is our profession

and the life we chose before

we trusted the granite in our voices.

We wanted to get it right,

to remember relief at sunrise,

a newborn’s cry, someone’s last words,

betadine’s sweet bouquet, patterns

coffee stained into scrubs

and blood’s slick feel on our gloves.

We were raw, opening ourselves

to chaos and mystery.

We were writing,

writing down to the bone.

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.