Shake the Dust

One of my first patients in nursing school was non-verbal. S/P stroke, he was hooked up to machines providing and draining him of fluid, monitoring his heart, Oxygen, BP, those fun physical measurements. After his breakfast of mush I was doing my physical assessment. I’m a diligent student nurse. He opens his mouth to say something and it is only grunts and moans. 


He can’t hold a pen to write down what he needs.

He can’t point to what he wants.

He can’t express to me what it is that I could do for him . . .

After picking up or pointing to 20 different things he begins to cry. Big crocodile tears. His pain, first in his desire, secondly, frustrated about not being able to express his desire, the tears grew. 

Student RN Morgan goes to find the CNA on the floor or the Pt’s nurse. 

Help this man. Help ease/remove his pain.

‘How many of you have pain?’

. . . This question was asked after a led primary class on Friday. (That this question is asked after Led I find humorous, Led is like running a marathon, first I laugh - defense mechanism 1) Hands rise up into the air, everyone’s hands. Physical pain, emotional pain. Life is suffering. Everyone is going through something. Everyone has some sort of pain.

My pain is more than theirs. . . (Defense mechanism 2 - rationalizing and comparing)

Your suffering is verbalized. 

Perhaps the squeaky wheel gets addressed first? Perhaps their suffering is so great that they can’t or don’t know how to verbalize their pain?

If everyone has pain, can you have more compassion? Can you empathize greater? Do you recognize they may have pain and not speak of it?

I’m good at empathy, but not that good. I don’t recognize the pain and suffering of everyone I meet, sometimes I’m so hung up on my own pain. Sometimes, I’m working through my own inner demons, causing more pain to myself. 

Sometimes, I can share about it. I can put it into words and express it. A blessing. I can express being lost, ungrounded, untethered, afraid, lazy, impatient, confused, insecure, loving, funny, confident, and virginal. 


It does not make my pain any more real than someone else’s, than yours. If I think that way it only serves to separate me further from them, from my true-self, the inner self. That kind of thinking causes more pain. Why do that to myself?


My patient was crying when I left him.

The CNA comes in and checks to see what’s wrong. His tears have dried up, vanished into the pillowcase. He’s gruff with her, she is equally terse with him. End of communication. She puts a straw into his apple juice and sets it on his tray. 

‘He’s fine’ she tells me.

She has 10 other patients. I hate hospitals.

(next tattoo idea: DNR across my chest, big letters)

We can measure the physical, the heart rate, O2 saturation, BP, fluid volume, lab values, etc. We can’t measure the subjective . . . Pain is subjective, one person’s pain and suffering and tolerance to it is different than mine, is different to the next person’s. But we do a great job at judging . . . ‘Look at how tough he is, that 5yr didn’t cry when getting his shots . . .That 12yr is worse than . . .’

Judge my pain. Judge my suffering. I have it. I have pain. I have seen death take patients, and friends. I have witnessed the mental sufferings of schizophrenia eat my best friends mind until he could take it no longer. 

Judge all you want . . . I’m sad that you wish to drive the wedge and distance between us further, but you are not my battle. My battle, my struggle is my own. Ordinary humans strive to preserve their lives, their way of living. Extra-ordinary humans shake the dust.



Shake the dust. 

Read this poem by Anis Mojgani (or watch the video on youtube: )


Shake the Dust

This is for the fat girls

This is for the little brothers


For the former prom queen

And for the milk crate ball players

This is for the school yard wimps

And the childhood bullies that tormented them

Shake the dust.


This is for the benches and the people sitting upon them.

This is for the bus drivers driving a million broken hymns

And for the men who have to hold down 3 jobs,


Simply to hold up their children.

For the nighttime schoolers

And for the midnight bike riders trying to fly

Shake the dust.


For the two year olds who cannot be understood

because they speak half English and half god

Shake the dust


For the girl whose brother is going crazy


For the gym class wall flower

And for the 12 year olds that are afraid of taking public showers

For the kid who's always late to class because he forgets the combination to his locker

For the girl who loves somebody else

Shake the dust.


This is for the hard men

Who want love, but know that it won't come

For the ones who are forgotten


For the ones whose amendments do not stand up for

For the ones who are told to speak only when they are spoken to

And then are never spoken to

Speak every time you stand

So that you do not forget yourself

Never let a moment go by that doesn't remind you

That your heart beats 100 000 times a day

And that there enough gallons of blood

To make everyone of you an ocean


Do not settle for letting these waves settle

And for the dust to collect in your veins.

This is for the celibate pedophile who keeps on struggling


For the poetry teachers

And for the people who go on vacations alone

For the sweat that drips of a Mick Jagger singing lips

And for the shaking skirt on Tina Turners shaking hips

And For the heavens, and for the hells through which Tina has lived


This is for the tired and the dreamers

And for those families that will never be like the Cleavers

With perfectly made dinners, and songs like Wally and the Beaver

This is for the bigots

This is for the sexists

This is for the killers

This one is for the big house jail sentenced cats becoming redeemers

And for the springtime, that somehow always shows up after every single winter


This is, This is for you.


Make sure that by the time the fisherman returns

You are gone

Because just like the days, I burn at both ends

And everytime I write, everytime I open my eyes

I am cutting out a part of myself

Just to give it to you.

So shake the dust and take me with you do


For none of this, has ever been for me

All that pushes and pulls

And pushes and pulls

Pushes for you


So grab the world by its clothes pins

And shake it out again, and again

And jump on top and take it for a spin

And when you hop off, shake it again


For this is yours

Make my words worth something

Make this not just another poem that I write

Make it like its heavy about us all

And walk into it, breathe it in

Let it crash through the halls of your arms

Like the millions of years, of millions of poets

Coursing like blood

Pumping and pushing, making you live


Shaking the dust

So when the world knocks at your front door

Clutch the knob tightly, and open on up

Run forward into its wide spread greeting arms

With your hands before you

Your fingertips trembling

Though they may be