TUMSS & HCS Department of Surgery Poetry Competition 2016

The TUMSS & HCS Department of Surgery Competition was held throughout August and September. We received a large amount of entries from students in all year of the course, thank you to everyone who entered and a big congratulations to our winners.

1st place – Nikki Burton (Med I)

2nd place – Sandon Lowe (Med II)

Equal 3rd place – Linden Scholes (Med III)

Equal 3rd place – Sam Salani (Med V)
Thank you to Dr Mary Self for her support and enthusiasm in running the competition and for Tasmanian poet Janet Upcher for judging the entries and providing feedback. If you’re interested in submitting poetry to the competition next year watch this space!

1st place – Nikki Burton

The romance


This is not a typical valentine’s card.

This is not a typical conversation heart.

This is not a typical coming of age thing.

This is a conversation about coming to terms with things.


Here’s the thing.


We drove into a movie date everyone dreams of.

We got an “admit one”.

We got punched in.

And our romance with this is cinematic.

Or at least, we can think all this in the foyer.

Where this is furthest from feeling real.


Here’s the thing.


Coming of age is hard to do.


From lattes hiding sweetened bitterness under decorated surfaces.

From crowded dates and crowded places and a crowded headspace.

From salad days to caffeine days.

From a shed skin to a new skin.


This is becoming ritual.

This is becoming routine.

This is becoming everything.


Here is the becoming thing.


There is a certain virtue to this.

We are married to this.

We cannot divorce from this.

We are grandfathers devout to gardens around the sides of the houses.

We are pious to this little church of ours.


But here’s the thing.


They say the first year is the hardest year.


While there can be romance in heading off to the races and heading off to the deep end.

Sometimes I get short of breath.

I grab at the air.

I grab at feeling lost

At “this-isn’t-what-I-planned”

At feeling happy-confused-mad-scared.

At a discord between organs.

At my mind and my heart.


The thing is.


Grabbing at the air is hard to do.


You feel everything and nothing all at once.

From your atlas.

From the weight of the world consumed.

From the sugar coat.

From the hardest thing to swallow.

From the brush against the corner of square one.


The thing is.


I don’t want to dissolve under the tongue.

Or to fall on the cutting room floor.

Or to fall short.

Or to be eaten alive.

Or to be left behind.

Or to grab hopelessly at the air.


The thing is.


We are a paper cup in the morning and a paper stack in the evening.

We are night owls and we are early birds.

We are the can’t-stop and the won’t-stop.


This is our hungry passion.

This is our thing.

This will always be part of who we are.

We will grow and we will bloom.


When I opened this valentine’s card, it was the letter that changed everything.

The heartbeats – the still ones and the beating ones.

The humans – everybody and every body.

The things that make everything real.


Here is an honest thing.


This has been the year of lost and found passion.

Of exhausting confused positions and confusing questions.

Of “maybe-this-isn’t my thing”.

Of “maybe I’m in too deep”.

Of dehydrated love and rehydrated love.


This has been the year which struck me as most human.

The year of opening my eyes.

The year of getting by.

Of a springboard into the deep end.

Of finding a home that I can’t leave behind here.


So here’s the thing.


This has been the year I decided that this is my thing.

That this will always be part of who I am.


And this is my saving grace thing.

My “if I happen to fall short” thing.

I can’t stop and I won’t stop.

I will grow and I will bloom.



2nd place – Sandon Lowe

Visceral Wisdom, a Sonnet.


There seems no way that I can ever know

the lymph nodes, nerves and vessels we’re prescribed

to state by heart for years on end to show

we’re worthy of the calling we’ve subscribed.


And all of it inside me, curse my senses!

Oh, how myopic has been made my eye!

That I could turn the vision of my lenses

and gaze upon the nerves that they supply.


But alas we are denied this visceral wisdom,

And with my notes I spend another night.

While carving from myself a discrete system,

There is one thought that gives me some respite:


For all the neuroanatomy I forget,

Despite it all, my brain keeps functioning yet.


Equal 3rd place – Linden Scholes

Sentinel Node Station


A decision for incision

In the cold, surrounded by bustling bodies

The patient’s consciousness fights the anaesthetic collision


Through the buttery layers the blade moves right

A halt in its tracks as the tight tumour teases

Out with a flick, that should lighten the mood


A false sense of satisfaction is met with a realisation

A track of blue dye trickles down past the sentinal node

The cancer train has roared past safety station


Bodies no longer bustling in the cold room upstairs

Its time to close her up, time to give the news

The word malignancy leaves her in constant blank stares



Equal 3rd place – Sam Salani

In the ward


Blue drapes and green drapes

Partitioning the ward

And patients shrouded in whites

In reflective silence of convalescing souls

This is our battlefield

This is where we wage a war

A war for love and joys that bind the atoms of souls

Convalescing souls who are equally us

To imbue them with fortitude

And awaken a will for dreams

A will to see them in tomorrow’s light

This is my battlefield

A battle field for the love of life