Corina, Corina

                Josef sat on the curb on the outskirts of the high school perimeter, shyly staring down at his shoes instead of at the pale, quiet girl sitting beside him.

                “So…you’re leaving.”

                Corina made something of a noncommittal grunt, shrugging one shoulder up as she mumbled, “Well, yeah. I told you that from the beginning. You knew I wasn’t going to be here for that long.”

                “Yeah, but I-“ something powerful rose in choking bubbles against his throat, too big to get out. Josef tried to swallow them down. “I didn’t really….realize…that, well, that it would be so…soon.” That wasn’t what he had wanted to say. He had wanted to say that from the first time he had seen her he had been struck by her- her beauty that she seemed so unaware of or obsessed about, her cocky attitude, her intelligence, her proud confidence, her gentleness, her smile- and, without realizing what had happened, he had gone from passing notes to her in Drama class to falling head over heels in love with an unobtainable angel who had seemed so easy to approach at first.

                “I told you from the start that nothing was going to come of this and to look at us as just friends….friends with a little bit more.” There was something severe and detached in her voice that hurt him, and he recoiled a little bit.

                “Yeah, but….well….I mean, as I wrote to you in my note-“

                Corina tugged at pieces of grass behind them. “I responded to your note. Didn’t you see?”

                “Yeah…” Josef fingered the folded-up piece of paper in his pocket. “You didn’t even spell my name right…”

                “I didn’t?” Corina seemed genuinely troubled by that for a second. “How did I spell it?”

                “With an ‘e’ in it. And a ‘ph’ at the end.”

                “Oh.” Corina chuckled and waved her hand carelessly as if to dismiss all his worries and anxieties as ridiculous. “That’s how my brother’s name is spelled. His name is Joeseph, too; I must have gotten the two mixed up.”

                “But….I’m not your brother….” Josef started, then gave in. Not as if it mattered anyway. He would clutch onto that note like a drowning man to a buoy- as he had done with all her notes to him, poring again and again over her loopy half-script half-print handwriting until he felt he could see her in the lines and curves of her words- and push himself up with them from the unfathomable depths of a child suffering through his parents’ divorce, his father’s rigid distance, and his mother’s affair with another woman. He kept holding on to a wisp of hope that she would understand- her own parents were divorced, although she didn’t talk much about that- and that she could help him survive through this, help him cope despite a heavy sinking premonition in the pit of his guts that she wasn’t even listening to him when he tried turning to her for advice.

                Desperation suddenly gripped at him from that bottomless pit. He turned on Corina and tried to grasp her hand in his own but only ended up startling her into snatching her hand away. “What? What is it?” she asked, perturbed.

                Josef leaned in close, reaching a hand out towards Corina’s face. He forgot sometimes how dark he was in comparison to her until he saw pieces of their skin in contrast, and for some reason right now with her being more aloof than normal it made him even more anxious and desperate.

                “Kiss me!” he breathed, leaning in abruptly towards her. Corina shied and twisted away from him, turning her head away so his own fell forward in despair. “Just…just one kiss,” he whined, trying to move closer. “You did it before…”

                “Josef, I told you, we’re just friends….plus a little bit more. But I don’t think that little bit more is a good idea right now, seeing how you’re acting and knowing that I’m going to be leaving for three states away in a week.” Her words were so cut and dried, so clipped and precise; each one was as ostensibly innocuous yet profoundly painful as a paper cut. She made sense, he couldn’t deny that, but the way she said it was like a death sentence to his imagination.

                Josef gave something of a moan and lay down curled up next to her with his head in her lap. Absently her fingers wound themselves into his soft loose curls while her eyes glanced briefly, blindly, across his face then back out over the football field some yards away. Josef ran away from the distinct impression that she didn’t even see him and lost himself in the feeling of her fingers tickling his scalp and getting lost in his long hair. Without thinking he murmured aloud to her, “I think I love you.”

                Corina’s fingers paused for a second in their tingling and twining, but that was the only sign she gave that she had heard him at all. Josef opened his eyes to stare up into her glaringly white round face. She was looking down at him, but her shocking green eyes evaded meeting his own dark brown ones directly. “Do you….how do you feel about me, Corina? …Corina?”

                It took everything in him to force those words out of his throat. He lay, taut to the breaking point from hope but drained of all other life energy just waiting for a word- or three- from her. He lay still as death, waiting-

                And waiting.

                And waiting.

                And waiting.

                Waiting for something more than the casual distant proclamations of friendship she had been making for the last three weeks; something more than the unconcerned, unencumbered proclamations of friendship she now calmly reminded him of. Waiting for her to feel something like what he felt the few times their lips had met or her hands had latched onto his; waiting for her to hang on every moment with him as he did with her and whisper the truth to him that she couldn't live without him, either.

Waiting to feel the solid weight of the buoy underneath his hand to pull himself up by instead of the shimmering mirage of rescue help shifting through his imagination as he sank further down into the deep.

                Corina left him waiting; left him to lose herself looking for her own thread of hope to shine out from the depths of despair because she knew that this buoy that had seemed right in front of her was too far off for someone as far gone into troubled waters as she was. Josef waited a full year before finally letting go of his belief in her notes, of her smile in the curves of her handwriting, of her hands playing with his hair in the loops of her script. It took him longer to actually let go of the notes- eventually burning some, shredding others, crumpling the rest of the lot and throwing them into a trash bag right on trash day so he couldn’t sort back through them to rescue any- but a human being can only wait so long. Perhaps Corina had waited for so long herself that she had turned into something else, some vague shadow of what a human being is supposed to be; but with Josef’s last long-distance call to her, his last fleeting attempt to try and hear something in her soft, smooth low tones other than cold distance and apathy, he finally accepted that a human being can only wait so long for warmth from a stone statue before he freezes over himself- and a human being was exactly what he wanted to be.


Why did they call it "Spring"?

Oh Iraq!
Oh Syria!
Oh Iran, Afghanistan,
Maghreb and Mashreq!

Shall I call to mind your glorious past?
                Baghdad six times sacked
                Palestine plundered
                               and raped
                again and again
                since before the Phoenecians grabbed it?

Shall I call to mind your glorious past
with hopeful choral refrains
of a Phoenix rising from the ash?
A Phoenix rising from the ash, did I say?

                There is no glory
                no hope
                no joyous future refrain

to be heard amidst gunfire
dropped bombs
child soldiers
and drone planes;
against the wails of widows and children
starving under sanctions,
mothers’ screaming backdrop to Assad’s murders
Muslim Brotherhoods’ fundamentalist political propaganda
and a neo-liberal sponsored poverty
with cutthroat capitalism selling itself as the One Solution.

Where is the glory
                in the selling of children to feed your family;
                kidnapping, torture, and rape to keep order;
                in growing accustomed to the sound of bombing,
                and the violence perpetually surrounding
                becomes so normal it’s accepted as having cultural value?

Violence can kill a nation-
                will kill, eventually, every human soul.

There is no glory in gunfire
                in carbombs
                dropped bombs
                drone planes
                or child soldiers,
                widows and children starving under sanctions
                or young women and men murdered
                by trying to outrun zombification.

Oh Iraq!
Oh Syria!
Oh Iran, Afghanistan,
Maghreb and Mashreq!
A Phoenix from the ashes again?
But how many faces has your Phoenix worn yet-
                and whose face and habits is it to wear next?


Contradictory Blues

What's so wrong with Red
That she would lust so after Blue?
Knowing, in heart and in head,
The Complimentary Rule:

Side by side they both get brighter,

But together they just turn grey;
And knowing you has made my life much lighter,
But loving you has only brought me shade.

What's so wrong with Red
That she would crave so Blue?
Dulling herself to Violet and Lead
Yet even still never reaching you?

The ocean can calm the sun,
But he can also put her out;
That's my domain when all's said and done:
Not so much calm as worn down and out.

What's so wrong with Red
That she even yet dreams after Blue,
Knowing, in heart and in head,
He'd never be swayed by such an apoplectic hue?

Turn the lights down low, lover,
And you'll see we're just the same;
Then to my dismay you'll soon discover
In due time all things are uncovered by day.

Maybe we can get by for now
On talk of saturation not tint,
But the thought will forever darken Red's brow:
How long before Blue sees straight through it?

And oh, why must riotous Red
Forever strive in placid Blue's way?
Knowing, as the past has illustrated,
That the Blues inevitably go away?


Letter of Complaint

Dear Love Above, my complaint lies below:

Namely, that a conglomeration of scars You did bestow
On me in using too often burning Amor’s bow.

All Four Loves now battle in my heart-
To find out which is where takes a diviner’s art,
so twisted a course they take once they start.
My choices, my faults, I full well know
Led me around foolish love by the nose
And full well helped with masochistic blows;
Yet surely not all this waste is mine to claim!
I did plenty of wrong, deserve plenty of blame,
But to be left with this, a heart crowned in shame?
Surely by now my debt has been paid
For every wrong turn and ev’ry ill played?
Or would you wait ‘til the last bit of life has been sapped away?

I spurred on for eros, forgetting philia in my aim;
Kept from agape and storge ‘til affiance recalled their flame.
But now what is left, what dowry to my name?
An old woman rules my heart with the cunning of age.
Cicatrices her throne, her crown, her cage,
Killing hope with a few twists to past charades.
Is this what I have left to savour-
Isn’t this a debt repaid with favour?
The moneylender always leaves much richer than the money’s payer.

Dear Love, please be gentle-
The tiniest of flames does yet kindle
But the slightest of extremes could very well end her.
Haven’t I paid for enough-
In Life and in Love-
For all errors of judgment and personal affront?
Any more would be far too much.
Please, is it so wrong to crave warmth, desire touch,
Without these old burn scars acting up?

Dear Love Above, I’ve had it with love below;
Give me the three but take back the fourth-
I tell you, I’ve had it with Cupid’s stinging eros!

What I wouldn’t give for philia, storge, and agape’s warmth!


A Funny Story

A curious incident happened once when I was a medical student doing clinicals in the psychiatric ward of O_____ Hospital. It had such a profound impact on me, in fact, that it eventually caused me to quit the medical profession entirely.
                I was checking in at the nurses’ station early in my shift when I noticed a young woman- not too much younger than myself, in fact- who I hadn’t seen before. Nothing much stood out about her save that she occasionally would stop and seem as if she was addressing someone next to her, even though there was nothing there. Curious, I asked the head nurse about her obliquely while collecting files.
                The nurse looked over at the young woman briefly, then shrugged. “She’s been here for a while. Nice girl, if a little shy and sad. It’s a shame the kind of drugs they put her on, though- antipsychotics- when the only thing wrong with her far as anybody can tell is that for some reason she seems to think she has a daughter. That’s the one she looks like she’s talking to all the time. But I tell you, other than that she wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
                “Does she?” I asked, interest piqued.
                “What? Have a daughter? Lord, no! She’s just a baby herself!” The nurse chuckled and walked away as she patted me on the back. “It’s all in her head.”
                As it turned out the young woman’s standing psychiatrist ended up being out for the next few weeks following that (he tried to take as many vacations as possible in the year), so I ended up filling in for her check-ups. In our first meeting I chatted with her as I listened to her pulse and took her blood pressure, and found her to be amiable and friendly. She was a little shy and sad, as the nurse had said, but it seemed the more I expressed an interest in hearing what she had to say, the more she opened up to me. I listened attentively to her stories and to her characterization of the psychiatric ward. She was surprisingly intelligent and lucid in her responses; I had so much fun talking with her that I didn’t want to move on to the next patient. Still, a job is a job, so I finally wrapped up the conversation with a couple cursory questions about how she was responding to the medication (her response: “It just makes me feel numb and stupid. I hate it.”), marked down her answers, and then excused myself to go check on some other patients.
                Suddenly the young woman’s eyes grew very sad. “You’ll…..you’ll come back again…..won’t you?”
                I paused. There was something almost child-like in the way she asked, like a young kid tentatively hoping for an affirmation yet harboring unspoken suspicions that they might be let down. I turned back and smiled at her. “Of course. I’m your stand-in physician for the next few weeks, so I’ll be seeing you again soon.”
                She looked a little comforted and nodded, a small flicker of hope passing across her face. As I turned again to leave I noticed that she had started moving her hand rhythmically up and down in the air, as if she was stroking some invisible person’s hair. A slight chill crawled up my spine at the sight as I remembered what the head nurse had told me. I started walking a little faster towards the door out of the patient sitting room when I thought I heard her murmur to the air, “Don’t worry. Shhhh, don’t worry. They’re gonna come back.” I shivered in spite of myself and hurried out the room.
                Over the next couple weeks I grew a little more accustomed to the young woman’s strange behavior. It still disturbed me at times, but the head nurse was right- she wouldn’t harm a fly. Sitting and talking with her during the check-ups I began to wish there was some way to cancel her prescription of antipsychotics, if only for a little bit. They didn’t seem to do her any good, and if their purpose was to stop her hallucination then they weren’t working anyway. Apparently, instead of switching medications when he found out the young woman was still seeing her imaginary daughter, her psychiatrist had preferred to continue increasing her dosage of antipsychotics. Any amount of time spent with this woman showed her to be a clear-headed individual with a quick intellect in all other regards, so when she had picked up on what the doctor was really doing she had tried to hide from him the fact that she still had hallucinations. It had worked so far only because the doctor didn’t like his work and made a point to keep away from his patients as much as possible.
                I was tempted to ask her several times how someone who seemed as lucid as her could have such a disorder. I held myself back, though, and instead just listened to her. She evaded certain questions anyway, especially those about her family, so I preferred to let her guide the course of the conversation. Occasionally something would seem to upset her, but other than that she was very warm and open and eager to laugh and try to be happy.
                Then, a few days before the psychiatrist was supposed to return and I would be done with my rounds on the psych ward, I received a notice from one of the nursing staff in the young woman’s section who knew what an interest I had taken in her.
                “Maybe it’s not right for me to be telling you this,” the woman’s voice tumbled out low and conspiratorial through the phone line, “but I figured you’d probably want to know. That young woman patient you’ve been taking care of is having one of her episodes.”
                “Hmm. Looks like no one ever told you about it. Well, it’s not violent or anything so don’t worry, but I figured since you two had been getting close it might be a good idea for you to come here, just in case.”
                “Alright. I just got off in Section C, so I’ll be right there.”
                Puzzled and more than a little anxious, I speedwalked down the halls to the section of the ward where the woman was staying. I entered the nurses’ station on edge, expecting to hear screams and witness a disaster straight out of Constantine unfolding before my eyes…
                The nurse on call who had phoned me blinked at me in surprise. “That was fast,” she commented, looking hard at me. “But why do you have that look on your face? Is something wrong?”
                I blinked. “I-well, I mean, I don’t know. Is there?? You called me.  I….thought it was an emergency.”
                “An emergency?” The nurse laughed. “Well, I mean, you could think of it as that, I suppose. It’s certainly nice to see that some people are so caring!” I frowned at her, not liking at all this sinking feeling accumulating in my gut that I had just been had. “Oh, no, don’t worry!” The nurse held up both hands, rushing to assure me, “there is a problem. But it’s nothing serious, and nothing we’re not used to. It’s pretty mild, really.”
                I kept my frown for her. “Then why did you call me? You said something about an episode?”
                “Yeah.” She sighed and stood up, rifling around for her keys as she spoke. “Every now and then your friend here just goes into these near-catatonic funks. She won’t eat, she won’t move, all she does is just lay there and cry. It was really bad when she first came here- her roommate complained about not being able to sleep because of it, and since we didn’t have any other spare bedrooms at the time to move her to, we just put her into solitary. But…” the nurse picked up her keys finally and turned to face me. “That only seemed to make things worse, so we moved her back. I hear she’s a lot quieter now when she has these episodes, so it’s not as much of a problem. But still….” She shook her head. “And she’s usually almost immovable at these times, too, as if she’s curled around something or someone and holding them tight to her. Maybe that make-believe daughter of hers, huh?” The nurse chuckled as she moved past me to the door that led to the patients’ rooms. “Come on, I’ll take you to her.”
                I followed, but couldn’t stop my eyes from shooting daggers into the nurse’s back as I did so. When we got to the door she motioned for me to be quiet. I stopped to listen, but I could only hear the hum of electronics and the high whistling whine of electricity throughout the hall. As soon as the nurse opened the door, however, I could clearly make out the muffled sounds of whimpering sobs. The nurse looked over at me and motioned with her head into the dark room. “Don’t worry, I’ll leave the door open and be right outside in case anything happens.”
                I nodded gratefully at her and cautiously stepped inside.
                I hate the dark. It always reminds me of those scenes in scary movies right before the monster jumps out and kills someone. Even though this was only half-dark, the scant light from the hall seemed to give the shadows and curtain partition an even creepier feel.
                Step by step I hesitantly inched my way closer to the bed and its still, sobbing form. I picked up a desk chair left in the room for visitors and brought it with me to the head of the bed. There still was no movement from the figure balled up under the blankets. I could see her torso shaking from the sobs rising up between the blankets but other than that there was no movements. Through the thin sheets the outline of her body was visible, and it did look as if she was curled up around something or clutching someone close to her.
                I sat down on the chair. I called out her name gently. No response. Not even a pause in the tears. I called her name out again, then let her know it was me talking. “Is….is everything okay?” I asked hesitantly. Nothing.
                I started reaching out my hand to touch her shaking back but froze. Scenes from every horror movie I had ever seen ran amok through my head and started pulling my hand back in fear.
                I shook my head angrily to clear it, then stretched out my hand again towards the bed. I fought against visions of a monster jumping out from under the sheets to bite my hand off as soon as I made contact, and finally laid my fingers firmly against the blankets covering the young woman’s back.
                In that instant, I understood.
                Through a child’s eyes reality can sometimes be scarier than movies, and in a moment the scenes from horror films were all chased from my head and replaced with scenes of horror as seen by a child.
                Dark. Dark rooms with nightlights. Dark halls with lights on under the door burning bright. A should-be silent house with screams and cries filling up its dark spaces, leaking from bright spaces under doorways. A young girl hiding, shaking, under covers so the demons in the dark and the fear in the uncertainty aroused by those shouted voices wouldn’t eat her. A little girl crying under her covers. A little girl in the dark of the hall, opening the door to burning brightness and deafening noise, caught inside both as the anger, violence, pain and tears that had been trapped behind that door turn on her in ashamed outrage.
                A mother sobbing, naked and alone on a bed- What do you want from me? Just tell me, what do you want from me?- and a father, tower of disgust and rage with words flowing from him seamlessly together into one endless curse. All of this thrown directly in the girl’s face along with screams to get away, stay away, what are you doing here, and the slam of the door as the little girl runs back to the dark of her room.
                Dark. A dark room filled with screams and nightlights. Covers. A young girl hiding, shaking under her covers so the demons in the dark and the fear in the uncertainty aroused by shouted voices wouldn’t eat her. Loneliness when the noise is gone; anxiety because she never knows when- or if- it’ll ever be back; and fear when it does return. A little girl crying under her covers.
                My hand fell heavy on her blanketed back, and my other quickly followed to her other side to encircle her in an awkward embrace. The thing she was curled around was her daughter- her ‘daughter’ was the little girl she was so many years ago that went through such painful things, a piece of her that she kept trying to protect and console because nobody else could see her.
                “It’s alright, it’s okay,” I heard myself breathing out soothingly as I pulled her rigid body closer to me in a hug. “Those are just ghosts. They’re just memories. All that went away a long time ago, it can’t hurt you anymore. It’s okay, it’s okay, they’re just ghosts. They can’t hurt you anymore.” Bit by bit the rigid body melted into flesh and bones, and the hospital blanket shifted around until the body underneath was laying in my arms, soaking face buried into the front of my lab coat, arms clutching onto my back as if to a life preserver.
                I found myself stroking her hair underneath the blanket as she herself had done after that first check-up session to comfort her ‘daughter.’ Her sobs seemed less mechanical and subdued now; now they were more the noisy, wet, snotty sobs of a good, healing cry.
                “Shhhh, shhh,” I repeated, stroking her head and slightly rocking back and forth. “Shhhh, they can’t hurt you any longer. That can’t hurt you any longer. That all went away a long time ago. Don’t worry,” I murmured over and over until her sobbing slowed, her grip loosened, and she eventually drifted off to sleep.
                I re-positioned her on the bed, tucked her in, and remained seated next to her for the rest of the night. When the nurse came in to check on me I briefly told her what had transpired and then asked her to get me a clipboard so I could make out a report.
                I spent the entire night writing and re-writing my report until I was satisfied. I read it over again and again, and when I finally couldn’t find anything else to re-word or edit, I set it down next to me to turn in to the head nurse when she came in that morning. I waited another few hours until my charge woke up, then welcomed her to the morning with a smile and a hug. It tore me apart inside that I couldn’t stay longer in the psych ward, just to make sure things went right for her and that she got correct treatment now that I could see what was really the matter. I assured her I had written up a report for her psychiatrist with a strong argument for her to be taken off of any medication and immediately transferred to outpatient therapy in order to be closer to friends and family. When I told the young patient all of this, she looked taken aback and more solemn and depressed by it than happy. I didn’t think much of it at the time- I just figured it was simply because I was leaving and may not be able to see her again that she seemed so down.
                I said my goodbyes to her, then stopped by the nurses’ station to drop off my report with the head nurse. “Is it….” I paused. The head nurse was scanning over the report I had so meticulously written. “Is it possible to check back up on patients after I’ve completed my rounds here?” Immediately the head nurse clucked her tongue, eyebrow raised in a cynical slant.
                “What, to check on that girl? Sorry, but afraid not. Rules is rules, and unless you’re an assigned physician you’re not allowed to have any outside contact with patients. Even if you’re a doctor stationed somewhere else,” she added, eyeing me over.
                “Oh….” I looked down briefly and shuffled my feet some. Then I looked up quickly, a spark of hope goading me on. “It’s just that-“
                The nurse sighed and set down with a snap the clipboard with my report on it. “Listen. I know you mean well, and you are a good budding doctor, but I don’t think you really understand all that well how things work here. Lemme tell you something. You know that patient, that girl you want so much to help? You know why she’s here? Her family brought her here. Her mother. You know how many times that woman’s come to visit her in the four months she’s been here? I can count ‘em on two fingers. And as far as friends go, well, we don’t let anybody but family visit and it’s been so long with no contact that it’ll be difficult for her to go back to them. Besides, how many do you think would understand any of the stuff that goes on here? More likely her very presence here makes them uncomfortable, so why wouldn’t they feel even more uncomfortable if she were to get out and go try to be around them again? And I hate to be the one to say it, but if you think this-“ she held up the clipboard- “is really gonna convince the doctor to take her off the antipsychotics that he gets a big fat commission from pharmaceutical companies for using, you got another thing coming.”
                I stared, dumbfounded. “But…..but…..but that’s not right,” was all I could eke out of my throat.
                The head nurse snorted and set back down the clipboard. “Honestly dear, this place is the only thing that is right for her now. Everything you’ve said in your report about her and what’s wrong with her are true, but because of the delicate state she’s in because of that, re-introducing her to the world outside with all its stigmas about places like this and people like her….I’m telling you, it’s easier to just keep her here. Even her own mother believes in the doctor more than in herself or her own child- even her own mother believes the stigmas about being here, too. And you want to send her off to live ‘happily’ with that? Let me tell you. You’ve been studying all that theory to be a doctor for- what, four years? I’ve been working here for over fourteen years. You were quite astute to pick up in such little time what was really bothering your patient, but you still haven’t picked up the bigger picture yet. We sell to people the idea of a cure in places like this, but there are no cures here; there are no definitive cures for the kinds of illnesses people come here to fix. In over fourteen years I’ve seen all kinds of people pass through those doors- and the vast majority of them are not crazy, are not psychotic, are not in need of counseling or doctors or drugs. Some are, but most of the people that come here, come here looking for some unknown relief that they can’t seem to find in the world out there. And sometimes that relief is from their family, or their friends. I’ve seen perfectly sane people break into violent psychotic episodes right before dismissal home, not because they’re psychotic but to convince people that they need to stay because this place is more of a home than what they’re going back to.”
                The nurse snorted and began busying herself with straightening files. “What we really have here is a sanctuary. Psychiatric wards and mental hospitals have replaced the monastaries, temples, and forest sage retreats of before. In fact, we're really all that's left that holds something of that same spirit of escape from the world for people. Your friend will leave here when her doctor or hospital protocol says it’s best, because this is what’s best for her; and she’ll probably leave on the same combination of antipsychotics, if not a more potent mix of them.”
                “And that’s- that’s okay with you?” I almost shouted. I couldn’t believe my ears. This went against everything I wanted to believe in my profession. “But..she’s not sick! How many of us talk to ourselves in our heads anyway- argue with ourselves, lie to ourselves, harp on events in our past, and console ourselves in our minds as well but try to hide it from others? She's no different, she just acts out her internal struggle to deal with trauma more honestly than others. All she needs is a good environment and some love and support, not some, some, suped-up medication!”
                The head nurse gave me a look filled with sympathy. “So do a lot of people. All of the world, in fact. But whether all of this is okay with me or not, or if I believe in it or not, doesn’t really matter, now does it? This is just my job. Now please. You need to go home and rest. I know you only have one more day on- in Section B right?- before you’re transferred to another hospital, so if I don’t see you again before that, take care okay?”
                She started to turn away, then turned back and tapped a finger on top of my report. “And I will make sure he gets this. Don’t worry.” She paused for a second, sighed, then went on. “If you’re gonna be a doctor, honey, and especially if you want to be a psychiatrist, you got to develop a thick skin. You’re a good doctor, but you won’t survive if you don’t learn how to distance yourself from your patients.” She nodded finally at me, then went off to check in the wandering phlebotomist.
                I stood there, dumbfounded, staring at the report I had so ardently worked on and surrounded by the remains of all the hopes for the health of that young woman that had spurred me on in writing it.
                “But…..” I mumbled to the empty air, “I thought being a doctor was about caring what happens to people?”


The Cairn

My soul is too old-
too ancient, too cold-
to live like this:
without some touch,
without some kiss.
But my heart is too worn-
too weathered, too stone-
to believe in bliss;
so leaves me no salvation
in hope, or happiness.

No Answers

What is a breast
But a piece of flesh
Without another’s warmth
To caress?

What is a womb
But a monthly tomb
Without another’s soul
To fill its room?

And what is this life-
To live just to die?-
Without another’s love
To help survive?