When I finished this annual journal of Upstate Medical University, The Healing Muse, I felt I had been on a journey of discovery. Through fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and photography, health care givers and patients explore and express their feelings and thoughts about the roles and relationships they have with each other as well as with illness and disease. The complexity of the works presented reflects the complexity of the personal dramas from each side of bed. Steven Katz in his poem, “The Cathedral,” eloquently describes the situation: “Thrown together in a whirlwind / by hurricane Cancer / Surgeon and patient twist about / With all the awkwardness / Of new dance partners / Having to learn subtle nuances / Indelibly intertwined like sides of a spiral staircase / Vaulting up the bell tower of humanity.”
Although the subject matter is serious, the journal is never melancholy. Many of the black and white photos accompanying the selections are of spring and hyacinths and small star-like flowers as if to remind us that harsh realities usher in delicate new life and understanding. This is beautifully exemplified in Deborah Bradshaw’s poem describing medical students and physicians visiting a patient in “One Morning on Rounds”: “Every morning we circle your bed like loyal subjects. / Our tithes are small. / Your largesse, in illness, great. / So the first are last and the last are first. / Gentleness crowns you on this slow last march. / We offer a hand to your elbow and know / Who is helping whom.