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Poetry and Medicine
November 2, 2011

Bone Weary

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

Author Affiliation: Kennydale, Washington (judith.skillman@comcast.net).

JAMA. 2011;306(17):1842. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1530

I can almost taste the shades of gray
rising in layers outside my window.
I still smell the white noise of rain punctured
by the train coming on twin rails way off
in the distance, where others dress
in bright colors for travel. The boundary
between salt water and fresh water,
put in place so long ago it's become
a spit, a sea wall, a piece of land
that no longer troubles me, lies indifferent
as a sponge—its sand compacted, yellow.
They say I am hollow, my nerves shot.
They bring mineral waters. How can I tell
them the infinitely many ways
I struggled to fill the hills and valleys
of a simple conversation? How
make peace with the long silences
following on the heels of argument?
I know now that cloth full of smelling salts—
spirit of Hartshorne, eucalyptus oil—
brought me to when I fainted. My walls
clammy, the small dirty rooms in grayout.
I hear sirens. They fill the whittled
semblance of days and nights. I cover
my ears with down pillows when car alarms
sound. Jaguars and Audis, singing too loud
from green-swept curbs of the neighbors.

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