Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Pink and yellow

Govind Krishnan
Durham, North Carolina, United States


The Magpie by Claude Monet. 1868 – 1869. Musée d’Orsay. Via Wikimedia 

I am wearing pink, I have a rosy glow
My breaths are even, measured, slow
The doctors come and go. Come and go. Come and go.
But sometimes they mutter, their heads bowed low.

And when they do this, I rest my hands on my growing belly
listening intently, but understanding barely.

I look at my husband lying in bed. I look at his swollen belly
and wonder if we are so different

True, I am pink, and he is yellow.
As I grow big—my ankles fattening
he grows small—his muscles wasting
his eyes gape crusting, though I wipe them daily
his lips once plums, now ripening, pruning.
And always there is the yellowing.

They tell me they are going to drain some fluid;
afterwards he leaks and oozes. They say he is bleeding a lot
and has edema—his skin weeping the tears his eyes no longer produce.

And again, in rush the doctors, with the probing, testing
and they watch my husband gasp—ragged sharp gurgling
and they start pushing—compressing
then intubating, ventilating.

I am still wearing pink, I no longer have a glow
I try measuring my breaths as I rock to and fro
The doctors still come and go.
Come and go.
Come and go.

Here, it rarely snows, so I was surprised this spring
to find flakes atop the green shoots, softly descending
blanketing, covering.
Nature doing what nature does,
doctors doing what doctors do,



GOVIND M. KRISHNAN, MD, is the chief resident for quality and safety at Duke University and the Durham VA medical center. He recently completed his residency in combined internal medicine and pediatrics and will be starting a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Duke this fall. He spends most of his days poring over patient charts or looking at patient safety data to improve the quality of care provided to patients. So to get away from the numbers and reconnect with the humanity in medicine, he writes stories. Read some of his other works in Voices magazine or hear him share these stories out loud at The Monti.


Fall 2020  |   Sections  |  Poetry

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