KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Poem: 154 words

The Proof of Fear

by Joanna White
for Dr. Rita Charon, pioneer of medical humanities

Dr. Charon waves her fingers, tentacled 
anemones of our tide pool brains. Do you see? 

she asks. The arts filter in, awaken them 
from shriveled slumber. She can see it, true 

as Rothko blue. Next slide, 
a magnified marble—the largest moon 

of Pluto. Who imagined we could capture it, 
give it its mythical name? She projects 

a surgical report, words brittle as a dead 
beetle’s shell, calls on a doctor to read 
it aloud, ending: patient tolerated 
the procedure well. She shows us a forest 

clearing, still as Buddha, where we could go 
to tell a story. I think we can make it better, 

she tells me later and I don’t believe her 
until I remember that she has seen the brain 

of a shocked mouse lit up on a screen—has seen 
the proteins that prove the space-less fear of mice. 


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