The method I used for writing these poems was as follows. I started by finding poems online, in French, by Arthur Rimbaud. After copying them to a document I would stare at them until I decided approximately what they might mean. Then I would write down that meaning in English. It might be important to note I don’t have any French, although I have watched a good number of subtitled French movies.
These honest recollections, confessions of how the mind and the body will grasp at anything to survive the residency years, how Kalanithi found his “munching apples” moments in the trauma bay with some harmless jokes and a soggy ice cream sandwich, are why I consider When Breath Becomes Air essential reading for any doctor-in-training, why I push the book on so many medical students, residents, and fellows.
When I finish a chart, I feel a great sense of closure that dance never gives. Because in dance there are so many mitigating factors for anyone to see your work and for the work to be seen as it was intended to be performed: a dancer can be injured, a dancer can turn away from your work, a new production is usually out of reach, things can go wrong on any given night and make the piece not the piece, the house can be empty, the house can be full, the tickets are priced out of reach of your audience, etc.
I told Chimamanda that I’d love for her to sign her book, "We Should All Be Feminists," for you. I offered her a Sharpie and she quickly and decisively wrote: “Summer keep writing. Keep doing,” and added a smiley face. I told her Summer was only six and I would wait before giving her the book. She looked me straight in the eyes, not unlike Gloria, and said: “She can get it now.”