Poetry plays different roles for different people, and this poem plays two in particular for me. First, reading and writing poetry often provides space to reflect, process, analyze, and sometimes agonize over my clinical work. This includes mistakes. In “A Brief Guide on Mouth to Mouth,” I wrestle with guilt, shame, and fear from bad outcomes. The poem's narrative is actually a fictional synthesis of two patient encounters that still haunt me years later. The form of any poem should serve its subject, and here the woven repetition of this specific form, the pantoum, mirrors how my mind returns repeatedly to these patients: each line appears twice (the second and fourth line become the first and third in the subsequent stanza) until the end, where two lines from the first stanza reappear to “close” the poem (asamonitor.pub/3hHVKaf). This required repetition also allows for variation via grammar or context and can reveal more depth, nuance, or ambiguity.
The second role for me in poetry is one of growth. The technical requirements of poetry (especially formal poetry) often distract my consciousness, allowing my subconscious a chance to communicate. The concentration required for the arrangement of words in a certain way sometimes lets the truth slip out. I learn about myself by writing, although it is a strange epistemological source. In writing this poem, I realized how my promises are at least as important as my preparations. Ultimately, for me, these two roles resonate with each other: the place of brooding is also the place of discovery. The structured introspection of poetry is a way to incorporate mindfulness into my clinical practice.