Pectoriloquy |


Brenda Butka, MD
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Editor’s Note: Dr Butka is a practicing pulmonologist at Vanderbilt, with a special interest in chronic respiratory failure and neuromuscular disease-related pulmonary problems. She has written poetry since childhood, following in the footsteps of her doctor father, who at one point wrote a weekly health-based poem for his local paper, and eventually published six books of verse. The poet writes, “This poem was written when I was a resident and evokes the ghostly nighttime character of the hospital, especially when I was called to the bedside of a dying patient.”

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© 2012 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2012;141(6):1633. doi:10.1378/chest.11-2115
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Having been given permission to die,
he died.
An order written, duly noted:
He set about his task without delay,
accompanied at times
by a practical nurse
and, twice a day,
the woman who scrubs floors,
who pays attention to work of all kinds.
He was not coded.
Called to certify
that the job was done, that he
had done it well, I
heard only the last of a life of breaths,
was for him
but a waver
in the dim light of endtime.
I said “It’s over”,
and closed the door.
Dreams waver
in the dim light.
I nod to the dimness.
It walks beside me down the hall,
an old friend.
I go back to bed.
Cold, it climbs in.




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