Medicine from the heart . . . Ekatarina Brodski-Quigley

June 23, 2011

Each Thursday, the Daily Voice showcases selected Thursday Morning Memos, reflective essays about clinical experiences written by faculty, alumni, residents and students of the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health and, occasionally, contributors from other departments. Thursday Morning Memos is UMass Medical School’s homegrown version of narrative medicine, in which the authors process their experiences through writing. To learn more, visit: http://www.umassmed.edu/news/articles/2011/personal_stories.aspx.  

 

Katy Brodski-Quigleya, MD, third-year resident at the Barre Family Health, wrote this poem and entered it in the seventh annual Gerald F. Berlin Creative Writing Award competition, and was awarded third prize. I think it captures what we become witness to when grief is occurring around us. Her success is in noticing it and translating it so beautifully.—Hugh Silk, MD

Brodski-Quigley, Ekatarina 

 


Embodiment

Grieving for a baby 
is a whole-body experience, 
      like fever, 
      like drowning. 
The ache of sorrow charges 
in a frenzy of motion. 

Eyes leak fluid clear and hot, 
like seawater in sunshine. 

Throat closes on sobs, 
tight as a mousetrap. 

Chest burns with breath unspent, 
churning against the throat 
like river dammed in rain season. 

Breasts leak milk, warm and smooth like chocolate, white as clouds, 
swell up with treat unspent, 
      wasted, 
      untasted, 
      unnourishing. 

Belly cramps on emptiness, 
bleeds life into uncaring cloth, 
weeping for life carried, 
      loved, 
      cherished, 
      missing. 

Legs buckle, weakened suddenly by the too-light weight 
of a body deprived of purpose. 

Heart shakes, shivers, shrivels, 
      like moth in fire, 
      like paper in candleflame, 
      like birchbark in frost, 
stretches to meet what the body craves - 
          one soul lost, beyond reach, beyond sorrow, 
          above the rainbow of hopes, 
          one soul present, frozen in pain, molten in anguish, reaching out 
          to share grief as trees joined by root share rain.