Editor's Comments on 'The First One'
April 29, 2016
Derick Jenkins's poem "The First One
" begins simply and humanely, as the resident listens to his patient speaking on the phone. The hope of that moment quickly flies apart, however, as the patient decompensates and, ultimately, dies. It was an unexpected death, and yet the narrator's response to it--carrying the story along with him for years, allowing himself to be changed by the experience--is what one would hope for from a physician-in-training. Students and residents recognize this story. It is the sort of thing that happens in hospitals, and which gives our lives a particular and recognizable texture, a texture that is different from the lives of most others. The power of Jenkins's poem is not only in telling a story that we recognize as one of "our stories," but also the bright language he chooses for the telling. This poem is a gift to the community of medical trainees in that it reassures us that our stories--even the stories we might wish to hide--can, in fact, be told.