Here is a second poem from the “archives” sent to me by my former English prof. What was interesting reading it was that, at the time, it was written, with the gender of the doctor being female, the poem shook the reader awake to the possibility of a female surgeon. There were not many female surgeons at the time. There are still not many. My gender is female and this was written from my point of view. I did consider being a surgeon, but the environment was extremely hostile for women at that time. My female classmates and I were still girls, barely out of our teens when we graduated. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I couldn’t have gone into surgery because I had already experienced too much toxic masculinity for one lifetime in medical school.

Poem #2

Third night on call

and the young doctor

cannot move out of the sterile field.

Caffeine-nerved, her steady hands

pass over the abdomen, touching here,

prodding there. Eyes catch

the grimace,

but only as

something physiological,

It is pain – not more –

But fifty-three hours ago

she would have seen more.

Now her hands, having found

pulses at wrists, linger

as though remembering that other hands

should be held.

The message from the hands

moves something in the mind

and a smile comes to the face

drawn with fatigue.


Grateful eyes respond –

one tear –

and the knife-bearing hands

touch one cheek


the victim of their oath.

(This is an image of an operating theatre in the Women’s Pavillion at the Royal Victoria Hospital. This image is from the Montreal Gazette.)

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