By Janice M. Mehnert

The chart sits on the rack outside the door.

I rifle through it to find the Chief Complaint,

Moaning and groaning inside about my long day,

My pounding head,

My itchy eyes,

My aching calves,

The nail I broke this morning,

The guy who never called me back.

Singing the blues,

Feeling sorry for myself,

For my poor overworked body

For my cluttered and clouded mind

For all the things in my life

That aren’t perfect.

The patient suffers from back pain.

No different from me, I think,

Every day I wake up with sore muscles from the gym,

Sore shoulders from sitting hunched over studying.

My eye skims the page

And I notice her date of birth…

It’s the same as mine

Same month,

Same day

Same year.

I open the door,

Nearly recoiling with surprise.

At twenty two years old,

I’m still a kid

Barely able to take care of myself.

This woman I see,

Is the same age as me?

Her hair is disheveled unraveled yarn

Next to my locks, smooth and coifed;

Her teeth are cracked and missing

Next to my pearly whites, straightened by braces;

Her clothes are big and bulky, layers to protect her

from the cold

Next to my silky dress and white doctor’s coat.

Her eyes struck to the root of my soul.

Not even her thick glasses could

Shield their dull pain,

Their tired black circles

Mirrored in my cool green pools.

I take a history to discover the problem.

She works in a warehouse,

Night shift till dawn.

It’s dusty in there

And she lifts heavy boxes

Of pampers and formula

Eight hours a clip.

The pain is so bad she can’t sleep at night,

She thinks it’s a muscle she pulled.

“I need a letter for my work,” she insists.

“Otherwise, they might fire me.”

When I touch her back she yelps in agony.

The muscles are pulpy and tender.

I scribble my notes with a smile

That masks my dismay.

As I leave, I catch my eyes in a mirror.

They are rightly filled with shame

At my petty mournings.

I did nothing to be born




Pure circumstance, is all.

She did nothing to be born



Prone to sickness…

Pure circumstance, is all.

We were born on the same day,

My astrological sister,

But my stars were lucky.

I am not thin.

I am not rich.

I am not beautiful.

My life is not easy.

I am not perfect.

But today was a sign

To stop thinking about what I’m not

And to use what I am

To help others.



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