by Peter Neil Carroll

The surgeon says, take a deep breath,
his metal ear trailing across my chest
the only sound between us.
He saved my life but what I want
to tell him seems insufficient.

How hard to speak gratitude
I learn from my students, alumni
who like a doctor’s patients
want to say more
than they know how.

Years later a letter comes, claiming
I changed someone’s life. I’m nervous
about this power, teaching. Most
who love my class already hold thoughts
like mine. Maybe I indulge them,
give consent—self-confidence
a tart ingredient, standing up for belief.

Once, twice I may achieve swift
revelation, guide a student
to an invisible star. That’s enough.
I take the doctor’s creed—
first, do no harm
let them find their lonely way
while I still search for the right word.