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The Best Storyteller Award


Daniel Becker ~

At the clinic retreat everyone gets a prize,
and the Best Storyteller reminds us of those times
a man goes on a journey. Not just any man: Dr. William Osler,

the doctors’ doctor, the professors’ professor, the textbook author,
and this Canadian in Philadelphia crosses the Delaware to Camden
where Walt Whitman, the great American poet, the poet’s poet,

endures fame and poor health.

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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

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Walking Each Other Home

Allie Gips ~

Winter in New England and
night replaces afternoon, darkness wraps the streets while we are all still inside.
There are no windows in the Emergency Department anyway
except of course the window into this city–the stream of women with bruised arms
and orbits that they will not explain, the revolving door of opiate addicts
nodding off, crying out, praying for forgiveness, the chronic-pain patients who rip

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This Is Not a Drill

Daniel Becker ~

At work there are three kinds of drills: fire, earthquake, shooter.
During a fire drill the building empties into the parking lot
where crowds kill time and blame the fire marshal.

The smokers want to smoke but don’t.
A doctor talks to the 2:40 patient and tries to stay on schedule.
If communication is the heart of medicine,

diligence is its best habit. Then he

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Retrospective

Jack Coulehan

Forty years passed. His body replaced
its cells, with the exception of his heart’s
persistent pump and the mushroom-like paste
of his brain. Only scattered synaptic charts
of his internship remain, etched in myelin,
a few of them deeply. Nonetheless, a dried
umbilical cord connects that powerful womb
to the aging man, across a gulf as wide
as imagination. He doubts there’s a thread
to follow, a blockaded door to open,
or a

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During Lunch at Medical Center Hour Today

a developmental biologist shows us a video of a fertilized egg 
dividing into two then four then eight cells–
a day’s worth of differentiation in a minute–
followed by a slide of a week old blastocycst drawn in cross section
with an outer cell mass or future placenta and an inner cell mass
that’s either someone already or destined to be someone
with the same constitutional rights as any non-incarcerated citizen, 
and while on the

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My Friend the Scholar Comes at Last to Attend His Father

Norbert Hirschhorn

He considered the wasted moult of a once
large, ferocious creature: mouth agape,
muscles twitching with every rattled breath.

Agapé–my friend the scholar marveled
at the homograph, and the thing that feasted
on his father. He laid a futon at the foot

of the high white bed, some books, a laptop,
a thermos. Nearby, an emesis basin,

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Third Party

Mary E. Moore

Tipping forward to escape
the wheelchair’s confines, the ancient one
pleads with her feet, “Go home.”

It’s her companion who volunteers 
the Chief Complaint: “Ever since her stroke,
Mother’s back seems to hurt.

Her doctors say there’s nothing can be done, 
but I thought that perhaps a specialist ….”
She strokes the old woman’s shoulders. 

“Does it hurt here, or there, or if I touch this?” 
My fingers probe among birdish bones.
Ignoring me,

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Sleep Hygiene

Daniel Becker

Outline the night and all its objects
in black magic marker.

The world through closed eyes
needs texture 
the way tires need tread, 
brains need wrinkles, and hypnosis
needs the power of suggestion–
traction, surface area, and control
might also apply to a cat
buried alive underneath the sheets; 
if so, don’t forget the one on top.

Stay up for several nights before
the night you plan to sleep.

Oil the ceiling fan.

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Depression Session

Abby Caplin

 

The chopped apple of her father’s eye,
She tastes the grapes of her mother’s drunken wrath
The barely visible slivers of silver-tongued almond
Needle her intestines as she savors
The seedless watermelon of fruitless friendships,
And endures the hard rind 
Of a body gone awry, 
To be chewed and chewed until swallowed or
Spat out. A salad of sorts
Surrounded by lemons
Home-grown, organic, bitter
And full of juice. She brings

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Death at a Distance

Your message hung on the phone line

like his striped shirt blowing
in the last wind of his life:
softly and with dignity.
His facial bones,
and body contours
he allowed to be chiseled
to an insubstantial sharpness
by the flow of chemicals and
the relentless labor of his disease:
both polished his body to dust.
Your life that has breathed that dust
for

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Medecins sans frontieres — Liberia, 2003

Les Cohen ~

I walk warily, 

searching for life
through smoking remains
of a jungle village.

My flashlight beam
slices the black haze
of equatorial darkness.
Was it Suakoko?
Fokwelleh?

No wind, rustle or drum
pierces the silence
of West African night.
Torched husks of thatched huts,
clay walls liquefied,
charred dog skeletons,
feet outstretched

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