Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michelle Tarbox, M.D: I do not want to be a hero

I do not want to be a hero.
I want to be a doctor.
I want to be a healer.
I want to take care of the people I swore in my oath to care for.
That should be possible without risking my own life for profits or expedience. 
I do not want to be a martyr, 
I want to be a medical expert.
I want to exercise my hard fought knowledge from years of study 
to save people’s lives,
not to risk the loss of that knowledge in a moment because I cannot protect myself – because I lack the very basic means by which to defend myself against the invisible enemy; 
a proper mask, the means to clean my hands, the ability to keep myself safe. 
I am not a soldier.
I AM NOT A SOLDIER!
I am a doctor!
The vows are different and 
the training is different
the contract is different.
I did not sign up to mortgage my life on the basis of bad decisions and reckless lawmaking.
I have already sacrificed my youth and mortgaged my future on the premise that I could make a difference,
but how can I even do that in this stacked system,
where the poor always lose and the house always wins?
This is not medicine – 
it is death.
It is a machine 
that churns out the poor
and the minority
and the different 
and asks us all to accept this death 
as a “reasonable sacrifice.”
We are asked to do so much with so little. We are asked to hold the line 
whilst being denied the basic supplies that can protect us,
that can sustain us,
that can help us live to fight another day. We are not soldiers! 
We are doctors. 
We are nurses.
We are health care professionals. 
We are scientists. 
We use our minds to fight our battles, not our fists.
I did not sign up to die on the battlefield of ill-preparedness and ego.
I never promised to put my life into the hands of the most incompetent leadership in our history.
I am a doctor. 
Not a soldier.
Not a martyr. 
I have worked for a lifetime for my knowledge. 
I have fought for my patients,
but my patience wears thin. 
Why should I persevere 
when people can’t even be bothered 
to protect themselves – 
when they ask us to interpose our bodies and our health for their bad decisions?
We are people too! 
We have lives and loves and aspirations too!
We are not an immutable force!
We are humanity at its very core fighting against disease and being helped by no one.
Why should I put my life on the line if you won’t even listen to the basic advice given to protect yours? 
I want to help you !
I want you to live !
I want all of us to live !
But this virus doesn’t listen to our pleas.
It doesn’t care about our feelings, or our sentiment or our freedom.
It is biology. 
It is science and it is relentless. 
It will do what it will do.
Our only defense is to protect each other- by our distance,
by our sacrifice,
by our wisdom,
and to hope it is enough.
We can’t fix this with the status quo, because that is what got us here. 
We can only hope to atone for our sins in the same humanity that will save us in the end. 
We are all human.
We should all matter.
No life is without value.
No person is unmourned.


Michelle Tarbox practices medicine in Lubbock, Texas.

Copyright 2020 Michelle Tarbox

4 comments on “Michelle Tarbox, M.D: I do not want to be a hero

  1. Mike Mirarchi
    May 2, 2020

    I love this poem, but the line “No life is invaluable” troubles me. “Invaluable” — I do not think that word means what the poet thinks it means. “Invaluable” does not mean “not valuable.” If that’s what it meant, then this line would work for. But it actually means “valuable beyond estimation.” I think the poet would actually agree that each life is invaluable, not that no life is invaluable. If I were her editor, I would suggest “No life lacks value” or “No life is without value.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Huntington
    May 1, 2020

    Thank you. I hope this will wake people up to how their own selfishness can spread disease to those who dedicate their lives to helping others.

    Liked by 1 person

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