Pectoriloquy |

Sleepless. FREE TO VIEW

Sarah Hartley, BMBChir
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Editor’s Note: The poet writes, “Mme T suffers from chronic sleep onset insomnia secondary to long-standing anxiety and depression. Her symptoms started when she fled her home country and have been exacerbated by her life as an immigrant in France. I am a sleep physician working in a sleep laboratory in a public hospital near Paris.”

Editor’s note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy: Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to poetrychest@aol.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.

Chest. 2013;144(1):356. doi:10.1378/chest.12-2765
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‘Sleep has left me’ she said and I,
catching her cadences, looked up:
saw tired eyes and rough hands,
worn clothes, neat for the visit.
‘It began’ she said ‘with the war’.
Young, dark eyed, a poet and teacher
leaving her sun struck city before
the tanks, going west, empty handed
Small jobs, hard work, scorn and disrespect.
The clumsy dysphasia that
ties the tongue of all immigrants
and calls compassion from their own
Young, who foresees a future of long nights
counting lost hopes and listening
to the fluid tones of our childrens’
perfect mastery: grown strangers?
Heartbreak enough, and for the present,
we struggle and cannot sleep. I should
diagnose with clarity, marshalling
symptoms according to the manual
But it is the end of the day and
I do not counsel drugs or therapy,
the panoply of my trade. Before her
I am empty handed. I listen.
‘Come back’ I say, and name a date
‘We can talk some more’. Next time
I will tick boxes, diagnose,
codify distress, prescribe. Next time.
‘Goodbye’, I say, in her language.
She smiles: more sixteen than sixty,
and I am humbled by the
transformative power of a word




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