Circus Man

Illustrated by
Taylor Hollingsworth

His name was Daniel and he had
no one but knife-throwing eyes
pachyderm skin and tobacco tar hands
to speak for him.

His legs were thin as wires having
outrun lions pinned in the end
by tumors trampling
his heaving chest his airway
closing like a fist.

He could not raise
his voice had never
learned to write could only

          I understand,
If you take the tube out—

          or No
I have no family
          or No
I do not want a priest
          and Yes, goddamn
I understand
          I understand
                    I understand

We took it out—

And he never revealed how a man
swallows flame, how to sleep
among cats, how to fall
from a train

He just shuttered his eyes leaving
only his name, which
was Daniel.

Reprinted from The Healing Muse (Vol. 13, No. 1)

Gaetan Sgro, an MD (Res ’13), was the Class of 2022’s invited faculty speaker on Diploma Day. He is a clinical assistant professor of medicine, an academic hospitalist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, a storyteller and a poet. He’s a recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, the Golden Apple Award and the Carl R. Fuhrman Clinical Educator Award. He serves as the site director of the My Life, My Story Program as well as associate program director for the UPMC internal medicine residency. Sgro also codirects Pitt Med’s Area of Concentration in Medical Humanities and Ethics.

Read more from the Winter 2022/23 issue.