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Pectoriloquy |

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Rachel Burdick Vinkey, MD
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Editor’s Note: The author writes: “I wrote this poem in residency. The mystery and brutality of the poem reflect the initiation to medicine, the dark side of the responsibility a physician takes on.” Rachel Vinkey is a psychiatrist in California. She completed her residency at Harvard and has served as Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2012 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2012;141(1):270. doi:10.1378/chest.110149
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It could happen in Cambridge
That you call for a cab one morning and getting in back you recognize a cheekbone
The cheekbone of a man who sat outside one of your patient’s rooms
Many nights
A patient you’ve often wondered
If you could have done more
To keep from dying
And the cabdriver says nothing
And you look at the I.D. on the dashboard
With the same Haitian name
And you wonder if he recognizes you
And he says nothing
And you think he’s the son who refused to bring his father to the hospital
Because the hospital just kills people anyway
And you’re almost there
And you ask to go in the emergency entrance
And the cabdriver complies and the fare is 6.40
And you ask if he has change for a ten
And he hasn’t
And you get out and ask a few construction workers for change
And they’ve got none
And coming back to the cab on one of the first sunny days of spring
You see your patient’s son
And notice his beautiful smile and his neatly tailored shirt
And you’re sure he hasn’t recognized you
And you give him the ten and you wish him a good day
And you wonder how much you still owe him


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