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Patient Coat, Doctor Coat FREE TO VIEW

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

Medford, MA

Correspondence to: Michael Zack, MD, 101 Main St, Suite 110, Medford, MA 02155; e-mail: mbzack@aol.com

Chest. 2008;133(1):311. doi:10.1378/chest.07-2423
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Patient Coat, Doctor Coat

Our hands view each other’s:

hers not washed enough,

mine washed too often.

This distance from where she ends

to where I begin

is measured in solitude,

hers and mine.

She tells her tale

in frustrating iterations

of digression.

But you must let her finish this rendering,

though you know its ending.

In those hands I see chipped plates,

plastic sofa case, dripping taps,

the smell of too little tenement light,

of urine rained on hapless clothes,

a smell her grandson will call stale

and will define everything in life

he will forever run from.

Her sallow hands, atrophic

from not holding

and not being held,

like garaged brush stiffened

with last year’s paint;

hands that rest, as she finishes,

on her coat

indifferently stained;

this coat with wrinkles of fear and lints of stress,

a snow fence retaining

winters of faltering bones.

And as her words end,

I become aware of my coat,

stiff with veneer, this bullet-proof vest,

presumptuously feigning sterility,

and myself, within, uncomfortable

of its starched and disconnected whiteness.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/misc/reprints.shtml).




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