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Poetry and Medicine
December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to

Author Affiliation: Seattle, Washington (

JAMA. 2011;306(23):2543. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1711

One Solstice, as was our habit,
toward midnight we walked three miles.
Two weeks' freeze choked
every ditch and puddle in a thick layer
of milk-glass ice. Snowflakes, caught in the circle
of a streetlamp's glare, drifted toward their own moth-like
shadows, and disappeared.
Above us,
in an empty playfield, we watched the aurora borealis
dance overhead. As its lime and crimson
curtains drew close around, we lay
upon the hard-pan bed of earth
which scalded our skin
with its rimed grass. We imagined ourselves
cloaked, invisible, in the swaying fabric
of the northern lights.
Just six months past that Solstice, twin veins
in the right frontal lobe of your brain burst.
Gurneyed, in the anteroom of the surgical theater,
flannel blankets draped around you
like banked snow. I kissed
your forehead, unaware of the growing
avalanche within.
New scans showed a
reversed world of light and dark,
a snowglobe shaken, the aneurysms' blizzard
of white fast curtaining each
flickering neuron
with blood.

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