“Habitus: 1. physique; 2. attitude”

Having long ago realized
that no connection remains between us,
I write this nonetheless for you.
Well, to be more precise, it is written
to help me cope
with those shadowy filaments of memory
that cling to me like the adhesions
in that belly we opened today.
My point of course is this:
that I recall this old man’s shaven groin
but his name and face I had forgotten.
As time goes on, the attitude grows…
becoming a doctor and losing myself,
except the parts that function, robotically,
to fit the white-coat role.
The tip of a finger on
dorsalis pedis, ears tuned for stirrings
of bowel sounds (how many days post op?).
But lingering on my post-call mind
are thoughts of you. Thoughts of a person
with his own physique and attitude;
a habitus I’d say…and in my mind I see you
all of a piece, and without a smile…
Where is that smile? You know, the one
that masks the pain, that arcs up to the sky
like a punctured vessel shooting blood.
Later we joke “next time on the ceiling,”
and wish that in our lives
we could reach the ceiling not with pain
but with some satisfaction.
Alas, as days go by, I think it’s not to be.
But now and then, please think of me
(or of the person that you knew);
wearing a habitus of hardening form,
so firm already now
that only poems for doctors
progress from soul to words.

Laura Hans, Chicago, Class of 2001

Originally published in Vol. XVI: 2000