The Interpreting Moth

by Tanya Magana


The poem is written from the point of view of a medical student watching a patient undergo a skin biopsy. After the procedure, the student senses that the Spanish speaking patient is a bit confused about his disease and the procedure. She helps bridge the communication gap by translating. The patient walks away having a better understanding of his diagnosis, as well as no longer feeling embarrassed to ask questions.

Slipping in quietly, I am the unwanted moth
Nestled in safely between the corner of two walls
Their brown eyes dart at me to shoo me away
Stay in your corner, stay out of everyone’s way

The man’s hair is gray
Silent, the center of attention
He’s new to this room
He doesn’t want to stay

He let the lesion appear,
Form roots.
Build a home on his leg

The crowd arrives
Blades in hands

His face sinks beneath the crowd
His boots float to the surface of the bed
They tell a tale
Of fear and despair

The crowd disappears.
Takes their weapons away

I flutter over, steer my wings out to land on his leg
Untwisting his tongue and untwisting his beliefs
Providing relief, he couldn’t find when he was beneath

He cups me in his hands and whispers
Without words
Using his eyes
Me salvaste

Author bio:  Tanya Magana is a first generation fourth-year medical student at University of Illinois College of Medicine. She frequently translates for Spanish-speaking patients during her clinical rotations, which she finds to be a very rewarding experience. When she is not in the clinic, she is making her crowd-favorite homemade flour tortillas, gathering a variety of floral stems to create unique bouquets for family, or enjoying Chicago deep-dish pizza. Email:

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