Of Patients and People

I didn’t know if I should wake him
or let him slumber on, further into the quiet, golden morning.
I hovered in the doorway, pausing for a long moment
I took a slow, meandering inventory of a life, manifest in objects around his room.

A well-worn watch resting on a floral arm chair,
untidy piles of books and receipts,
an armoire with a door cracked open
to reveal rows of folded sweaters and shirts,
and photos, obscured by dust, but proving
that a life, vibrant with people and places
had existed before Mark had been stricken with his illness.

It saddened me to think of the hospital room
where he spent so much of his precious, waning time.
Where rubbery beds and cold metal instruments
could be wheeled in and out, interchanged,
as easily as a person could be.
Where the ubiquity of thin gowns and all things disposable
threatened to bleach out the rich, complex dyes
that so uniquely colored the fabrics of his life.

The cold jargon that littered his chart
among hastily composed notes and litanies of numbers
seemed to be a betrayal, reducing
the man who had created homes from wood and nails,
who explored religions like museums, learning and leaving,
and whose life, garnished by the innumerable idiosyncrasies
that bestow our ineffable humanity upon us,
was inextricably woven among those who knew him,
into categories in an electronic form.

I wished that all of the white coats and blue scrubs
who whirled by “the CHF in 315”
could have stood there with me in his home
and known that Mark was more than pathology and a job to be done,
more than the next patient.

Ben Berger is a member of the University of Utah School of Medicine class of 2021. He studied molecular biology as an undergraduate at the University of Utah. He hopes to someday practice internal medicine. His interests include classic literature, state politics, chips and salsa, and his girlfriend’s tripod pittie, Biscuit.

Rubor Participation:
2019 Poem, "Of Patients and People"