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Riven

Martha Carlough ~

In medical school
I learned the particular sensitivity
of the breastbone

The rub of a knuckle
awakens even one deeply asleep
beckoning back to the present moment

Grief has the potential
to show us how cramped–
even deadened–we’ve become

Chest riven with pain
my fingers are now free
to explore the stories

Which have taken up occupancy
engraved like Braille
on the hidden contours of the heart

About the poet:

Martha Carlough is a professor of family medicine and director of the Office of International Activities at UNC/Chapel Hill, NC. She is passionate about safe and gentle childbirth worldwide. “I enjoy teaching in a variety of settings and finding ways to link a love for literature and poetry with the practice of medicine.”

About the poem:

“This poem was written after my brother’s death from colon cancer in April 2016. As a physician, carrying my own grief is a way to connect my own story with my patients’ stories. As David Whyte wrote in ‘What to Remember When Waking,’ ‘To be human is to be visible/while carrying what is hidden/as a gift to others.’ “

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer