Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities


Charles H. Halsted
Davis, California, USA


Dr. Charles Halsted (right) and his patient
who is the subject of the poem (left).

Photo courtesy of Charles Halsted.


I’m high on crack and going eighty,
black rainy night, oncoming lights,
back seat guy shouts out: “Look out!” too late.
I cannot breathe, my chest’s come tight.
Pain cuts my guts, knifes through to my back.
Ambulance screams, tears through the night.
ER docs crowd me, I’m under attack.
Up to the OR, all’s black, nothing’s right.
My guts are torn, useless, they cut them out.
My fractured back will never be straight.
Condemned from now on to be fed by IV,
from gangbanger to cripple, that’s now my fate.

My hospital room’s filled with darkness, despair—
death’s everywhere, in hallways, in air.
My past’s come back, soon I must die,
when an angel as chaplain appears at my side.
She speaks of redemption and sin’s retribution:
forgiveness of self’s the final solution.
There’s a way forward, of that I’m now certain.
I can pray to God, I need no permission.
I did not cheat death, I’m here for a reason.
My body’s been broken, but my soul’s been restored.
I’m reconnected to forces unseen,
I’m in spirit’s realm, I’ve been redeemed.



CHARLES H. HALSTED, MD, is a retired Professor Emeritus of internal medicine. His education includes BA Stanford University (1958), medical training at the University of Rochester School of Medicine (1962), Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Hospital. He has taught and practiced internal medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of California Davis since 1974.  His formal poetry education consists of five consecutive on-line courses from Stanford University’s Continuing Education program. His poetry has been or will be published in Tule Review, Poetry Now, The Gambler, Blood and Thunder, and Snapdragon.


Fall 2016 |  Sections  |  Poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.