Part I – Lights

Wanted to wait to post the video before posting the rest. Here’s the poem I wrote for our class variety/talent show for the newly admitted students. Scroll to the bottom for the vid!


My first sight of the lights was a windless night last winter.
Interview next day, crossing the river for dinner.
A shimmer, first: the water, next the skyline floating on black,
back was Boston, Mass Ave bridge beneath and before: Cambridge.
And watching the rippled pricks of bright, my sigh
blossomed white on the bus window. In this minute
for the first time, I thought: maybe…this could be my city.
My hypothetical black night and floating lights,
my breath taken away each time I took my bus, gliding
from bank to bank by my river from my school.

My school, question mark? Are you maybe familiar
with what followed this,
The pro-con list, the price of forsaken scholarships,
the distance, the what-ifs, the places, the people.

And people first were just profile pictures,
facebook names, two hundred pretty faces,
gracing our group’s page, pixels merely,
And now, it’s funny just to describe
my classmates thus
so intertwined are our lives.

From the first day of class on the Quad lawn,
peptide bond-making just after hand-shaking,
breaking into amino acid types–nonpolars, bases,
racing to make disulfide bridges, and real bridges building
as we ran our dimsum runs, Bhangra routines, cannoli outings,
rode on the Charles with sails unfurled,
split the best med school chocolate-chip cookies in the world.
Of course, we also learned.
To genome research leader Eric Lander–we wondered:
(just one of us at least)–Jurassic Park,
was it happening anytime soon? Dinosaurs? DNA?

We played at clubs and played clubs (the cards) and every club’s
lunch talks filled our bellies and brains,
And when it rained, when it snowed, when it Nemo’d,
Sandy’d, we were ready, chilling Sake in the drifts,
hiking out for midnight snow fights,
next day donning still our HMS white–
for there’s no way, no matter how fierce the fun
and friendships we’d release the right,
the privilege to care for our patients.

The way we wear that white, even when we’re not
wearing it, the right answers to tests, right
we care about those–but how many times
do my classmates just want to know
not to pass but for compassion,
for future patients? P.S., made possible by pass/fail

Which fills our lives not with cutting throats
but learning to be doctors who lead–
health care policy, with a side of wine and cheese,
AIDS advocacy, Senator Kerry, please–
and just when I’m tired, and mediocrity
tempts me, here’s a trip across the river
to hear Chomsky, Sandel, and speeches
by these are nice, but as president Faust tells,
Harvard’s greatest resources are yourselves.

So once in a while I go to class, sit in the back,
look down, to the left, and to the right, and
these, I’ve realized, are the real lights.

When I’m past the bridge these days, I turn around
and see the undulating pricks and points,
pizza joints and neuro labs, and my eyes grab
every photon they can before Mass Ave
turns and dark returns. Dark, I’ve learned
would be my days without these friends
beside me. And now, this poem’s end is coming.

But I hope you’ll come here, running,
that you’ll come back to Boston in August, hog every flight
and catch a sight for yourself of these lights.

I am actually not the hugest fan of this reading, upon watching it again, but overall–it was such a huge privilege to perform in Fabric, to live all the experiences that went into this poem, and to share a piece of that with the 2017s. Especially in light of yesterday, as I kind of wrote about in Part II, I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful for all that God has given me.


One thought on “Part I – Lights

  1. Pingback: Sirens, etc. & some thoughts on writing | lily

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