Her last, first breath” in-Training, the peer-reviewed online publication for medical students
To my corpse and to all those affected by SARS-CoV-2.
As I unzip the synthetic shroud,
he takes his last, first breath:
a final expiration of the plastic pleura
before getting to know each other.
The bag sits atop her figure.
Disturbed by fiery fluorescence
refracting its lobular enclosure,
I listen before daring to cut or move or even look.
His last word deserved to be heard.
The lamentations of praise for the missing bodies begin.
“Can we share a moment of collective silence?
for those who couldn’t hear
the sound of their last, first breath.
The plastic peels off to the bare head and shoulders and
the arms and fingertips that perhaps once traced the lips of lovers
or anchored palmar grips. Its endless stories
asleep and unrecognized as I deliver him:
stillborn now alchemized.
To me he entrusted his body, his ship
so that I can map its uncharted depths.
What a treasure for me to take it down
after spending his life getting back on his feet.
He is only a sliver of the outside world:
without preservatives but full of pathology.
His final stasis at our ephemeral stoppage of
pandemonium, pandemic, panem et circenses.
Performative breaks for hospitalized patients, healers:
by those who hear but no longer listen,
to those who stand on the shoulders of giants,
to those who heard the last, the first breath.
Death pits and anatomical abnormalities
wrestle the spirit with its menacing mortality.
But so does the fatal acceleration in your chest
when all you can think about is— am i next?
My favorite classmate,
teacher, patient, muse
has always been dead.
But what about us, the living left behind?
I hope we break down
in the tastes of his rest
waiting to take
our last, first breath.
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