on the limitations of knowledge

First envision the way her eyes hang
As immotile as sleeping bats
In the caves where seven bones collide
             Sphenoid, frontal, zygomatic, ethmoid…
You strain to remember the missing three
A factoid learned in anatomy
Where sharp-eyed professors pinned parts
On cadavers freshly frozen in formaldehyde


Now imagine cachexia as onomatopoeia
Plump limbs replaced by brittle bones
That grind together like rusty gears
               your mind spills with statistics as useless…
As her sky-blue hospital gown that slips
Off her small shoulders and you recall
mother’s ring on a child’s finger


Then picture how it might all end
Palliate, from the Latin
to cloak
in morphine until her breathing slows
A tangle of rosary caught in her gaunt hand
While her daughter swims through the
Fractal of her engulfing grief and…
               Where were you, student doctor?

About the Author

Rachel Daum is a second year medical student at Dell Med, a former flipper (aka gymnast), and a passionate cat lady. She hates writing biographies about herself but loves medical humanities.