Picture of Beatrice PretiBeatrice Preti is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at Queen’s University




It was the strangest of days when I met him first
Everything jumping from awful to worse
People were shouting and crying and seizing
Coughing and choking and retching and wheezing
It was nearly twelve hours before I could go home
But the attending doc called direct on my phone
And asked me, please, could I see one patient more?
Well, I couldn’t say no, so I went back to the floor
And met him there, though, then, he was alive,
But looking so dead I knew he hadn’t long to survive
Yet I took the history, and wrote everything thing down
Signed the orders, made the calls, and finished my rounds
Tucked him in for the night, and was just about to leave
When he said to me, “Doc? How much time do I have, please?”

For one week, I sat with him, as weaker he got
But, though his body failed, his mind clearly fought
And he rambled about things that I’d never considered
How winter storms blossomed, and springs rains withered
How life was a facet of only one shining stone
And death was a foray into the untimely unknown
He faced death with courage, as bravely as he’d fought,
But the day that death took him, my heart tied in knots
Because his corpse looked the same as when he still breathed
And that’s when I realised that death’s not what it seems
I never gave him an answer to his question about time
In the moment I apologised, but said the answer wasn’t mine
Death strikes on his own, whenever he sees fit
And though the premise is fearsome, there’s no stopping it
Maybe one day we’ll discover some way to stop death
But, until then, all of us will face our last, dying breath

And, would you know I still see him? That man-turned-corpse,
Who burdens my thoughts, when reality warps
Into a half-dream state, where I count off my sins
That’s where he finds entrance, and lets himself in
And I see him floating through scenes in my head
I could try to expel him, but I let him stay, instead
I guess he’s a reminder of the witness we bear
When a man slips away, leaving but a corpse there