What Lets Us Breathe Easier


"You’re a poet, aren’t you?"

Richard Berlin, MD, shares one of his poems, "What a Dying Woman Saw."

What a Dying Woman Saw

She was clear-eyed and dying

when I knew her, soft breaths feathering

from her chest like distant smoke,

face bleached white as burnt out sky.

Propped in a chair, oxygen prongs pulled

to her neck, she commanded like a queen

for morphine, lobster, a second phone,

her mind still ruling an 80 pound body.

She allowed me to sit at the foot

of her bed like a commoner, let me ask

the details of lineage and disease,

revealed the smothering-fear in her dream.

And on the last morning, when I’d suctioned

dark secretions, she wheezed,

You’re a poet, aren’t you?

That was before I thought to write

more than a patient’s history in a chart,

before I knew what lets us breathe easier,

before their stories engraved me like stone.

Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 23 years in Psychiatric TimesTM in a column called “Poetry of the Times.” He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.

Related Videos
“What we’re striving to do is conquer the unmet needs that are still here with treating ADHD, especially from a medication standpoint.”
Work takes up one-third of a patient’s life—it is important that we pay attention to it.
A new treatment in development is poised to be a game-changer for patients with postpartum depression.
An expert discusses the latest on EndeavorRx and more digital therapeutics for this patient population.
© 2023 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.