A Sigh on Rounds

Jerald Winakur

White coat, sterile gloves
my instrument dangling

but she finally died
after such a struggle–the young

always struggle so–
I listened to her chest

till it stopped then clicked
off the machine.

It sighed for us all as the air
drained out. And the moon

was still low in the sky
so large, so round–this

is a shape I know well–
and it hung there like a silver disc

auscultating the earth…
But I could no longer listen

as I sat on a night lawn
slowly moistening.

About the poet:

Jerry Winakur practiced internal and geriatric medicine for thirty-six years. He is now a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where he teaches the course “Medicine Through Literature” in association with the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics. His book Memory Lessons: A Doctor’s Story (Hyperion, 2009) chronicles his journey with his father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

About the poem:

“This poem tries to quietly capture the healer’s burden of listening even when there are no longer any sounds.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer



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3 thoughts on “A Sigh on Rounds”

  1. Amazing touching but true
    ..the universal feel of being helpless in front of loomin death..tryin to play god at times…hoping there is some life left…

  2. Really lovely. Thanks for sharing it. This is exactly the type of conversation we need to have more of. The particular grief of losing patients who we’ve cared for must be expressed and you have done so beautifully.

  3. The wonderful images move the poem from one man’s personal experience into the universal. His metaphor of the moon as a stethoscope listening to our heartbeat is quite astonishing.

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