2015 Writing Competition – Second Place

The 2nd annual UBC Medicine Art As Adjuvant Writing Competition concluded this year with the reading of the winning pieces at the Coffee House on April 8.  Dr. Monica Kidd, a Calgary-based published author and doc, and Kristy Williams, UBC Med grad 2014 and co-founder of Arts As Adjuvant, took on the difficult task of selecting the winners from a pool of beautiful written pieces.  Prizes were possible due to the continuing support of the BC Medical Journal and funding from the UBC Med Wellness Initiative Network.  Arts in Medicine would like to recognize Pretty Verma for organizing such a wonderful contest.

The following piece was awarded the second prize:


by Ben Huang

Medical School

is where i learned that

The Key To Self-Care As A Professional Physician Is In Practicing The Art Of Self-Reflection.

well i’m tired but i can’t sleep,

tired of staring wide-eyed at a white box with black scribbles that just appear;






write it out they say,

express it then send it away

i see i’m free when i bleed

i can just be



i can’t write

my eyes

only see brokenness

like the way i breaks up the smile in this simile

all similarly simmering down to semantic symmetry

all amounting to a mountain of imagery

but in reality

we reel in to find that we caught nothing.

i find myself saying a whole lot of nothing.

i should have said something.

it feels like bluffing

my way through a fluffed up, puffed up life


how can you heal someone when you are part of the disease

she knew

she must have known that

deep down

we are all children

reaching up with dirty fingers

trying to grasp the cookie jar

we are all young

blissful and blind to the curves ahead

just along for the ride

all we want is more ice cream

and to not have to go home

where Our Father is.

her name was Suicide.

actually, her name was j

and she was lovely.

there is a weighty silence

depressing me, pressing keys into WordPress

i can’t press my finger on it but

i’m pretty sure something’s wrong

pretty sure i feel a strong

ulcer chewing on my stomach lining

redefining the intertwining

tastes of bitter and sweet into a mellow mash of melancholy.

her name was j,

warm scarves, flowers of France, the passion of Paris packed into a small frame

a faint candlestick

waxing, waning

burning, dripping


pooling and cooling

to create

beautiful things.

like her special ketchup tortellini.

golden hair, gleaming eyes

beaming smile, dreaming soul

she had dreams;

inescapable little things,

part of the tapestry of life

and the art of living,


hopeful little things

that stay with you and stoke the fire,


givers of joy

and markers of failure

that begin when you sleep

and stir your great awakening

to the winding road of grinding effort

and triumphant calls into the void

she must have had dreams

of greener pastures

and softer meadows

lightly shaded with even softer yellows,


for glory, and flight

fearless unto cloudless skies and starry night

soaring, exploring

storing memories in a mind as fragile as sandcastles

under the sweet summer sun

for it is the nature of man to imagine,

to freely reach far beyond the stars.


i see you

in the CICU

admitted for a broken heart

a piece of art splattered and splayed

across the surgeon’s table

it seems

she could have used some Aspirin

aspiring to be desirable

but too late,

he prescribed the wrong treatment

and i mistreated her.

the mind is divine mystery

our neurology, theology

where all the gray and white matter

i can’t figure me out

i can’t release me out

of this prison cell

floating in mental cytoplasm

with no localization signals

to signal for local pain relief.

i could use some Aspirin

aspiring to be desirable

but i prescribe the wrong treatment

and i’ve retreated into numbness.


in a to-be-M-D

i’d rather spell these letters

than read their meaning on my degree

i’d rather they stay enveloped in play-rhyme

sealed behind me, ticking like that clock on the wall

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, I –

don’t know how anymore.

she must have had dreams;

beautiful little things

part of the tapestry of life

but Suicide stains the softly sewn fabric,

spilling over and staining the soul scarlet

Suicide leaves behind a husband, a daughter, a son.

and questions.

questions cling to me

the way her clothes would find her curves;

invisible and haunting,


remind me of the distance

between hers and mine.

the fingers of guilt choke out all expression from me

i can’t put it into words;

they stole them.

i could have said something.

she lingers in memories

like a post-credit scene

on replay

but the film is set in stone

and the ending has been spoiled.

sometimes closure is unavailable,

like the friend i seemed to be.

i can’t shake this off

the stains of scarlet on my sleeves

i can’t take this off

this over-worn coat of nostalgia

and old dust.

Medical School

is where i learned that

some lives just don’t end cleanly;

they just

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