eye contact, by Jordan Cole

This post is part of our collection of “Gold Nuggets” —  our way of alerting the medical community to original artwork, poetry or multimedia that stimulate discussion and reflection.

If you have an original piece you think would make for good discussion by the medical community, you can submit a Gold Nugget by following these instructions

eye contact
by Jordan Cole

Her eyes were knowing, enormous on her small face
with no hair to frame it.
She was five years old.
Already, she’d had brain surgery, chemotherapy, countless infections, and been labeled
as failing to thrive.
The medical team took blood pressure, pulses, scans, veins, and her strength.
Her body seemed not to belong to her.
But her eyes were her own.
His eyes were warm. He chuckled and joked.
He tried to smile, but could not.
Nor could he puff out his cheeks.
Myasthenia gravis prevented his facial muscles from working.
I knew I had to come in when I started choking on my steak, he told me.
He could not shut his eyes, either. And his left did not move at all.
They weren’t under his control.
But his eyes were kind.
His eyes were fearful. It was Parkinson’s, they told him.
No cure.
He was desolate, lost in solitude and hopelessness.
There’s nothing you can do for me, is there, he said. It was not a question.
I held his hand. I saw his eyes. Would you like to speak to a chaplain, sir?
No, no, he protested. I talk to God every day. I’m ready to die.
But his eyes were afraid.
Her eyes were hopeful.
She wanted always to be compassionate, to remember
who she was,
And to ask why.
Sometimes she felt weighted with expectation, wondered how she had gotten here, and
whether she was worth it.
She always decided she was.
The past sometimes called to her and reminded her to love.
Her eyes held on to truth.

This poem is from the Literary Liniment, an anthology of original poetry, writing and artwork by health care professionals in training and in practice. The anthology was created with support from The Arnold P. Gold Foundation. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What images are brought to mind for you just by reading the title of this piece?
  2. The word “eyes” composes a large portion of this poem. What does this word mean to you? To each stanza of the poem?
  3. The theme of “body and spirit” seems to emanate throughout this poem. What role does this play in your life? What importance do you think this plays in patient care for both you and your patients?