Amulya Iyer ~

The professors,
they teach us
the types of diuretics,
their effects on the tubules–
convoluted or not.
They tell us to check
for pitting edema,
and grade it to see
how bad it has gotten.

But who teaches
the student
to kneel by the woman,
her legs swollen,
her heart failing in her chest–
to slip off old shoes,
roll down damp socks,
and touch her feet
as if asking
to be blessed?

About the poet:

Amulya Iyer is a family-medicine intern at UC San Francisco (UCSF) at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. He graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he had the opportunity to do his primary-care rotation through Bassett Healthcare Network in the village of Cobleskill, NY. “My love of writing and poetry comes from my father, who is a poet.”

About the poem:

“This poem is inspired by a patient I met while working at a clinic in Cobleskill; she reminded me of my grandmother. It is also inspired by Dr. Alan Kozak, a mentor who encourages all of his students to reflect deeply on the emotions of medicine.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

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About the Poem


10 thoughts on “Water”

  1. So tender, so true. This nurse with advanced heart failure cried. Bless you and all my caregivers.

  2. Cordon Bittner

    Wonderful. It shows the art of medicine is the heart of medicine. The Hippocratic Oath states ‘Above all else, do no harm. To lack empathy is very harmful, especially to those on the verge of losing their dignity.

  3. sterling haynes

    Dear Dr. Amyla, Thanks you for your compassionate poem. Everything about your poem hits a chord. I have printed it out to read again and again. My sister Shirley and I were general practitioners for almost a 100 years . At 90 I still write stories and poems but nothing likes yours. We worked in CA, the Arctic, California, rural Alabama, Ontario and BC. Sadly medicine has become a business for the most part but parts of it I still miss and my empathetic partners. Your poem makes my day.

  4. My mom died back in November and my Dad followed her in January. I can tell you with absolute certainty that they longed to be treated with kindness and intimacy and skill.

    Your poem is beautiful.

  5. Ronna Edelstein

    What a beautiful, touching poem! I remember kneeling down to gently remove damp socks from my beloved dad’s swollen feet. After, I would hug him to let him know that he would always be Dad–the father I adored.

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Call for Entries

Pulse Writing Contest

"On Being Different"