Poetry Throwback

In honor of the late American physician-poet for whom NEOMED’s annual William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition is named, here’s a contest entry from the 32nd year of the contest. The author wrote it to honor one of Williams’ best-known poems, “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

The William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition awards ceremony will be held at noon Friday, April 21 in Watanakunakorn Auditorium. Contact Ann Williams (no relation to the poet!), awwillia@neomed.edu,  with any questions.


You’ve gotta elevate the foot at or above heart level
that’s what love is,
it reduces swelling.

If all else fails
examine jugular veins for distension. Listen.
Spike an IV

because love is a metaphor that infuses the crosshairs of mortal history
with 5 percent saline—

and in the back of the rig, first aid sways treacherously
as you heave her legs into a wide-angled “U”—

Push you say
Push you pray to the bald mountains glazed with rainwater
Push! for god-sakes for salvation that rings like gun against sky,
siren against intersection.

You, peering between
two portly legs,
your arms quaking under the weight of two inanimate handles
the heft of a wheelbarrow,

glistening crests of sweat
moving down that little dimple above your lip.
That’s what love is.

Ashlyn Morse is a lover of both language and medicine. In 2012, she received her Master’s Degree in creative writing from California State University, Northridge, intercalating poetry and science courses. For Ashlyn, poetry has always been the perfect looking glass for a closer examination of that mind-bending crossroads where art collides with medicine. Language has the power to transform medicine — to make a patient feel safe, to provide the doctor with a sense of greater duty, to spread the joy of success, and to prepare us for anything. Inspired by doctor-poets and writers like William Carlos Williams and Atul Gawande, Ashlyn has come to find that a doctor-writer’s job is to not only inspect, but to share her findings with the world.

Ashlyn is a first year medical student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

--Reprinted from William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition 32nd year banner

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