Celebrating poetry and poets is a longstanding tradition at Northeast Ohio Medical University, which recently held its 37th annual William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition – a contest that nearly 400 students in medical schools across the country entered.
The top three student winners (Sophia Valesca Gorgens from Emory University, Kaveh Danesh from the University of California San Francisco and Nikita Raman from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) visited the University this spring.
The guest student poets spoke to NEOMED students about their winning poems and read selections of their work; and guest physician-writer Mikkael Sekeres, M.D., from the Cleveland Clinic, talked to the group about what writing means to him.
Here’s the poem that won second place. Kaveh Danesh wrote it as a tribute to his paternal grandfather, a poet from Abadan, Iran, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s.
Triage of Two Cultures
By Kaveh Danesh
The day I got into medical school my grandfather called.
He said now that you’re a doctor I have a question.
Two dying patients come to your clinic, he said
before I could stop him—
a parent and a child.
Whom do you see first, and why?
I’m not a doctor yet! I said.
You’re wasting time, he said—
the patients are getting sicker.
Well can I ask some questions? I said.
Questions? he said—
the dying want answers.
The child! I blurted out
in English. The child
has longer to live.
There was a pause—not long, but long enough
to sense the disappointment and to question:
Do oceans mix? How can blood look red
and blue? Will I speak the language
of Oedipus and Laius or of Rostam and Sohrab
when, some narrowed arteries from now,
my immigrant grandfather calls for one last answer.