All Poetry

A Search Within.

How do I know
the pill won’t seem
bitter to your tongue
through your teeth?

How do I wear
a once white coat
stained with tears
of memories?

How do I compel
my pen to write
scripts to fight
a dimming light?

How do I know
 which waters will flow
to unearth the strength
within me?

How do I persuade
a heart to let go
when it’s my hand
that sets you free?

How do I ensure
my smile won’t be
one of the last
that you’ll see?

How do I force
my ears to hear
a song I fear
of dusk so near?

How do I know
which waters will come
to enshroud the doubts
within me?

92 replies »

  1. Beautifully done Phoebe! Love the medical metaphors and your YouTube video knocked my socks off! I could see and feel the emotion. I am LOVING all the spoken word poetry popping up around WordPress. Rob & Phoebe: is there a virtual Poetry Slam in our future?

  2. Doc, you just have to take off that white coat and walk through all those moments, both bitter and sweet. Let the bitter go, but hold onto the sweet…, as it seems you do for and about others. You need to do it for you too. Hugs ! 🙂

  3. My grandfather was the head of Penn State’s pediatric unit and this really echoed his feelings towards his patients as a neonatologist trying to save premature infants. So very beautiful.

  4. Super poem…….as for HOW you do what you do, you have the strength to do it because God has blessed you with a caring heart, the knowledge to be able to ease the way for those who are at the “door” of life’s journey or death’s beckoning, and because you know that your bravery is what sets them FREE.


    • Thank you for your encouraging words! And I think you touched on something that I think is particularly true…that these attributes I hope to possess to care for people…compassion, courage…they are only possible through faith. I am always thankful for that. 🙂

      Wishing you the best, Pam!

  5. A lovely thought provoking poem, but is based on self-doubt. How do you know all those things? For most of them you don’t but isn’t that a beauty of living? We are constantly confronted with scenarios over which we have little, if any, control. Will you agree with my thoughts here? I don’t know but at least I have an opportunity to express them and possibly cause more thoughts on the subject. Will anybody comment back? I don’t know but I provided an opportunity if they so desire.

    If the pill is bitter on their tongue, it may well be a small price to pay for the benefits. Will they forgive you for giving them a bitter pill? I don’t know, but I suspect that they will. 🙂

    • Hi Colin. 🙂 You bring up some very good points, and I do agree with your thoughts. I’ll admit, however, that there is always a constant lingering self-doubt within with each move I make as a caregiver… “Am I doing what is best for my patients? What else can I do for them? What if there IS something else that can be done…?” Questions like these keep me up at night thinking about the sicker patients…but maybe eventually I’ll find an inner peace…?

      Best wishes to you and Ray 😀

      • They are all understandable questions but the answers are your guide. “Are you doing what is best for your patients?” Only you can answer that but, short of encouraging divine intervention, I would suspect that you are doing everything you can. Even the simple concept of perhaps taking time off to further study treatments poses the question “What will happen to my patients while I am away?” The question “What if there is more that I can do?” poses the obvious question “Such as?”. Having no doubt that you cannot answer, that really confirms that you are doing everything possible … today. Tomorrow there may be a medical revelation, but today is what you have to work with. Be at peace knowing that if it were not for your compassion, sensitivity, and knowledge….. those people in ICU would have another doctor who may perhaps be less tuned in to their circumstances.

  6. How do you know? Because YOU are there – exactly where you are meant to be – for a reason – because you are you – precisely needed!… Great poem!

  7. Thanks once again for taking me with you on this moving emotional journey. I really liked this: How do I ensure
    my smile won’t be
    one of the last
    that you’ll see?

    Do you have any thoughts about why so many people die in that one fleeting minute their family leaves the room? It happens too often!!
    xx Rowena

    • Many people who know that death is imminent are holding on simply to be able to say their goodbyes and/or see everybody for the last time. In my very limited experience, I would suggest that when the family leaves the room, they know that they have completed their life and “let go”.

      • That’s a nice way of putting it. Some of the family members I’ve known have felt a bit cheated but I started noticing this pattern so I thought there had to be something in it. Thanks very much!

        • That is sad if they felt cheated because it would seem that they were putting their own feelings ahead of the dying person. They should understand that the dying person is waiting for an appropriate time to simply let go. Surely the dying person’s feelings come first?

          • I think they feel like they let their loved one down by leaving the room and not being there when the moment came.

          • We may never know, but I think that I would let go after seeing those dear to me for the last time. I don’ think that I would like them to see me die. No doubt it is all personal perspectives and preferences but, given that there is nothing anyone can do when the moment comes …….

    • Hi Rowena 🙂

      What Colin said makes a lot of sense to me. Unfortunately, my own experiences with death and dying have mostly been confined to the ICU setting, with those sustained on mechanical support (who are frequently awake and lucid, not comatose) desiring to be let go. As you can imagine, the provider plays a very different role here, and it’s a role that I always find emotionally conflicting and personally difficult.

      But I agree with you- what you describe does seem to happen quite often. But I would hope that the family would not feel ‘cheated,’ but rather at peace that their loved one has also reached the point of being at his or her own peace and can finally choose to let go…

      Best wishes, phoebe

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