A Question

Having told me you’ve had low energy
and decreased interest
in the things you used to enjoy
(reading, Canasta, sex),
I ask you,
because I believe we have enough rapport—
though how can one ever be certain—

Have you had thoughts of killing yourself?

You freeze for a moment,
a child exposed
for a lie she hasn’t told yet.
In the next, you sigh
and smile.

It is the smallest smile I have ever seen.

Gabe Davis is a fourth-year medical student at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, in Brooklyn. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in English literature. His works have appeared in Pulse and in in-Training, where he is a poetry editor and writer. In his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, playing guitar and exploring Brooklyn. He plans to become a psychiatrist and clinical educator.

About the Poem

“When I interview patients, especially those I’ve just met, asking questions feels a bit like dislodging stones without knowing what lies beneath. The questions we ask patients, especially when assessing their mental health, are designed to gather information that might be extremely private and sensitive. This poem was inspired by one such encounter, wherein a standard question created a moment fraught with unspoken meaning and ambiguity.”

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