Pectoriloquy |

The Medical School Considers a New Curriculum FREE TO VIEW

Ting Gou, AB
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Editor’s Note: The author writes, “This poem was inspired by the many uncertainties I face as a second-year medical student and writer. Sometimes, you just have to keep on working and believe that everything will turn out okay. I graduated from Princeton, where I completed theses in the molecular biology and creative writing departments. I’m a student at the University of Michigan Medical School.”

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

Chest. 2015;148(2):569-570. doi:10.1378/chest.15-0462
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                    or, an ode to uncertainty
If only the medical school offered augury,
then maybe I’d know by now how to consult
the body for advice, write prescriptions
from the flight of an egret or Canadian goose.
I would unearth a falcon’s liver from its hill
of bone, stroll along the two lobes’ fissure,
take measure of the landscape with my hands.
I would call this strange red earth a map.
I would anoint it the captain of my ship,
because a map knows where it’s going, in theory,
not like the blood I’m called to interpret,
this stochastic traffic of proteins, antibodies,
and jetsam, nothing but a few laws of physics
to dictate what dark tunnels to go through next.
And what is there to guide us? Think about all
the choices you made on a whim, the language
you spoke to hurt or heal. Think of the doors
you closed to yourself because, that morning,
you chose the other one. Along the river,
red-winged blackbirds collect twigs from ground
frozen just two weeks ago, too busy to even
sing much. I like to believe, after the priests
exhumed the liver from its feathered tomb,
what happened next wasn’t just a ploy to appease
the king or to parade their intellect, but tell me,
would it matter? Not so bad, I think,
to draw maps out of nothing. Or to imagine priests
reclined against tree stumps, dazed over
the importance of so small a thing, a bird’s liver
in the living bird, tucked close to the ribs,
enshrined by bone to keep all its various
futures alive.




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