I had overestimated
the size of the square
in the middle of town
by quite a lot.
But it was still big,
more than big enough for a hospital.
Two operating theatres,
one of them in a truck!
an emergency room
and maybe eighty beds?
We’d have to take care
of the cars of course,
overturned, burned and unruly,
here and there.
We’d have to check it
for mines of course,
although I’m pretty sure
I saw the children playing soccer here
the other day.
We’d have to fence it off
or maybe a wall?
It’s so exposed,
and we’re only ten kilometres from Mosul.
And maybe block off a few roads,
remove the chaotic tangle of
downed power lines,
clean up the broken glass,
and the shattered remains of the surrounding houses.
This square certainly saw some fighting.
But other than that,
it will make a fine hospital.
Andrew Dimitri, It will make a fine hospital, by permission of the author.
Andrew Dimitri reads his poem here, and talks about the value of medical humanities (starts at 50s).
Gently expressed, and successfully trivialises our everyday concerns.
Andrew Dimitri is a respiratory physician in Sydney who has volunteered with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) since 2010. This poem describes experience in Mosul, Iraq. It was runner-up in the health professionals category of the Hippocrates poetry competition 2017.
- The Hippocrates initiative for Poetry in Medicine runs the annual Hippocrates Poetry competition. You can buy the book of winning and commended poems for 2017 and previous years on their website.
- The poem was also Poem of the Week in the Guardian in May 2017 – read commentary
- About volunteering with MSF
- Andrew Dimitri (MSF profile). Patients we receive in Mosul (MSF).
- The value to the health service of volunteering to work overseas was documented in a 2017 report Global Citizenship in the Scottish NHS from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG).
- Featured image: ISOF APC on the street of Mosul, Northern Iraq, Nov 2016, by Mstyslav Chernov (Wikimedia Commons)