3 Poems

As originally published on Scarlet Leaf Review.


The Differential Diagnosis of Terror


I can tell you

why your heart scribbles

in irregularly irregular markings

on the printout

of an ECG, and I can


tell you why you’re living

on the edge

of cardiac dysfunction when

your chest starts


to burn.  I was trained

to understand senility in your

drawing of a clock

at half past


ten, and I understand

your dyspnea when you start to pant

after two steps of

work.  I can


explain to you the

difference in your blood pressure

from when you rest

to the moment


when you rise, and I can

deduce why your bones

ache now that

you have aged.  I was


taught to hear

your triumph through your words,

and to use caution

when calling your pain


a chief complaint.  But I never

took a class

in how to comfort a refugee

of terrorism,


and I never

felt the pulse of a man

taking cover

from a bomb.  I only


can imagine

the smell of flesh

turning grey under scalding

flames, and can’t even


picture the arrhythmia

of thoughts

that must traverse

your mind when trapped


in the hatred of

an extremist plot. Because

that’s what it was –



that turned you from

a Turkish brother

to a patient,


victim of a blast

at 18:40, a time I wouldn’t even

recognize on a clock.  And

that’s what it was –



violence that impeded

the sinus tachycardia

of your heart


in a moment

I couldn’t even begin

to diagnose


the condition of a terrorist

who saw no other meaning

in an irregularly irregular rhythm

than as that –


a target.  And I wish

I could interpret this violence, too,

as a mere fibrillation

without consequence, an electrical


anomaly in LED lines, because

then I wouldn’t

see your bloodied body as

familiar, your tears


as misdiagnosed pain; when

I was trained

as a doctor to look

for solutions buried

in the physiology of a fracture,


and after

Paris, Beirut, New

York and Ankara, I still have

no scientific rationale for

what the news tries to explain.


Wait for the Second Ring

I wonder if Obama used a landline

to call Putin – for the

prestige in tangled

cords, after all


after all the children were


by terrorism for over five

years, just remember,


and this weekend when one-hundred

thirty died near Damascus,

for our leaders to pick up the phone – I wonder


if the Syrian residents

listened at the door once

that last thirty-one mattered.


To the news – it sounded majestic

declaring peace in hushed whispers,

all the men sent to war

with their wives, all the leaders

setting deadlines they’ll change;


but I wonder

if Lavrov and Kerry wore white

while talking – about what color they’d choose

to sign their names

in history,


though in retrospect,

a history book only buries

white words

scratched in principle, under ink


of real change, and I have to wonder

if the Oval Office plans to use a fax machine

in The Event: when they actually sign


a cease-fire diplomacy – it’s tradition

in the digital age

to return to basics of humanity:


We will not kill

We will not fire

We will not devastate

with words no one entrusts


to hold power; and I have to wonder

if Obama put Putin on hold

when his secretary called, “Come and answer.”


One Click Away


I feel dirty sometimes

when I turn the lipstick out of the tube,

I think it’s the shape;

and the color,

so ripe,

like a pop-up notification on my msn homepage.

And that’s how I get

my news – in dirty little pop-ups

of what google says I should read

like the breaking story that Cesar Millan’s whispers

are damning

to my golden retriever’s carefree clicks


of his salivating tongue.  And though my dog is

two-thousand miles away,

I can hear those carefree clicks

each time I follow the internet’s lure

to the next trending topic – because trends define

our nation’s focus: on a woman with bi-

paternal twins, a medical anomaly, a

personal curiosity.  I turn to the comments

often, before finishing

the content, wondering what hypotheses are stirring

to explain the miracle of two men



one woman

within the same ovulatory cycle.  I’m sure

the reporters asked

that question, the same way I’m sure they asked


could a baby die unvaccinated, but that’s

not their job, or is it – stirring the pot

of Facebook uproar,


and ‘uproar’ happened to be highlighted

in the article, linking me

to news of middle school graffiti –

art and swastikas

burning the minds of children.  They really are just children

when they first log into Facebook, onto e-mail,

when they first

browse across the tale of lawmakers

proposing a break


from Eastern Time. And

if not for hashtags, those kids

wouldn’t know it’s a story, replayed

the same each year, planting seeds of progress

in the hidden truth of complacency.  I would call it that – complacency, our acceptance of

dual core processing speed of ideas

in a society still running on dial-up.


But I control-plus’ed

on the jpeg clock on the http page

on the digital tablet of the news,

and I found that crack

in the space between two and three,

the twenty-fifth hour.  They never

taught us to read like that

in school, when we still read news

on the ink-stained pages of

rolled-up paper, in the days when

I didn’t know about 9/11

because I didn’t know how to read, because

I wasn’t yet tall enough

to reach the remote,


control is what I’d call

the dirty little secret

that news is happening faster than

I can click, and creativity is how I’d paint

the pop-up reality

that msn tells me what to know,

as I choose the screen magnification


for opioid overdose.


And I wonder

how I’ll explain to my kids

that I feel dirty sometimes, to read that

Trump is done debating and to know

that their seventeen-year-old babysitters

have a voice in our future

without their hands ever touching

the grease

of printer-pressed reports, without my hands

absorbing the sweat-

smeared tone of importance

that ink once gave

to news that Times have changed.


© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.