Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Ripping Point

Michelle Joy
New Haven, Connecticut, USA


Poet’s statement: This poem came forth as an expression of coping with the violent experience described within, which transpired some years ago to my younger, very loved brother.

Ripping point

My mother’s hysteric words rang as loudly as the shot that was fired—
They fell as soundly (upon my ears)
As the multitudes of metallic minions who hijacked the inhabitance of his young flesh,
Who built an incarnadine colony beneath his tanned encasing,
Once smooth and complete.
The sun’s light tore as brightly through the evening clouds
As the spewing fountain of blood from the geyser of his right thigh.
My mind strove to untangle causes and effects, reasons and answers
As complexly interwoven as the mass of plastic tentacles entangling his tortured body:
Feeding him drips of essence and drops of happiness.
Oh, rape of harmony,
Curse-ed bend of the finger
Which destroyed a leg,
But not a life.
I dream that one day he will shout,
And one day he will run
As fast as he was able,
But until then he must tread the waters of life
And suffer to stay afloat
While boats full of caring captains and staring sailors pass by
All on deck
Without a life-vest to throw.
I sit beside an imperfect replication of my brother,
Who breathes lifeless breaths.
His identity has been transplanted
As though a novice sculptor has affixed his person with an unnatural contrapposto.
His hair is darker, I note,
Hidden from the sun in these sterile confines
And streaked with remnants of last week’s sweat.
Time passes strangely here—
A monotonous tick-tocking proclamation of Murphy’s Law.
I have become immune to the constant pacing, the aimless strolls of his neighbors.
For they can pace, and they can stroll.
He lies without components of his structure,
A smile,
Yet I feel as helpless as he,
Incapable of help enough to comfort
And only able to love.

life preserver

Photography by Diane Hammond



MICHELLE JOY is a fourth-year medical student at Yale School of Medicine currently applying for psychiatry residency. She is editor of the Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine, with publications therein as well as in The Examined Life and Connecticut Medicine. She has also edited several published books, written scientific articles, and was the 2011 Connecticut Geezers Book Award winner.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Spring 2012 – Volume 4, Issue 2

Spring 2012  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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