Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities


Laura Anne White
Rochester, MN, USA

Author’s statement: I wrote this poem on a piece of scrap paper around five am, towards the end of a night shift. About fifteen minutes after coming into work that evening, a patient of mine who had been somnolent struggled to breathe. Moments like this have a way of grounding you. My line of work continually sheds light on our mortality and forces me to appreciate the transient gift of life.

Breathing by Laura Anne White

My night shift eyes
feel dry and sunken, but wide
the conclusion of a night
like this one
feels strange, at best
What have I just done?
How many have asked themselves
the same
amidst the haphazardness
of being alive
Her eyes were wide
like mine
more alert than before
as she struggled with
the most primal of tasks

In and out and in and out
this miracle feigns monotony
until threatened
How to remember
this habit
as a gift?
An honor to take
molecules of oxygen
from the atmosphere

How do we breathe
and why
and what are we doing here
And what have we done?
in and out and in and out

LAURA ANNE WHITE, BSN, RN works on an inpatient adult oncology and hospice unit at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas.  Her writing has been featured in the online blog Recovering the Self, A Journal of Hope and Healing. Opinions are her own.

Summer 2017



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