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Poetry and Medicine
April 18, 2012

Less Than a Minute

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Seattle, Washington (

JAMA. 2012;307(15):1560. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.344

I know the feel of being free of all craving.
I was trying to inflate a very stiff balloon
at a party. It wouldn't give. I pressed
my chest's full force to the task, no thought
I could let myself fail at this, until
that mounted thoracic pressure barred
the blood of my veins from my heart.
Empty-hearted, no fresh breath
conveyed to my brain by its billion red slaves,
all agenda decayed and I sank
to the floor amid curious guests—drowned
in a wave of sensation's utter absence,
desireless, wordless. . . bliss.
Of course this body remembered
its usual business of respiration—
my mindless heart filled with oxygen
soon as the pressure was off. My sojourn
lasted less than a minute at best.
Then I wanted everything again.

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