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Poetry and Medicine
July 4, 2012

Still Life Within the Painter’s Heart

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Easton, Pennsylvania (

JAMA. 2012;308(1):13. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3550

Within the painter's heart, the doctor finds
the sky, a pink tablecloth draped over a
tiny Tuileries garden chair. Tucked within
the folds of the sky, the sun, the size of a child's marble,
still hot from centuries of radiance.
In the right ventricle, all the phases of the moon
stacked like 45 rpm records, each playing a different mandolin tune.
In the left ventricle, the stars of the universe, their shimmering points filed
to the roundness of a baby's knuckle, dart in a sea of crimson.
There are fish–black fish–in the painter's heart.
There are pitchers, teapots, pears and apples, and dark ceramic bowls
brimming with lemons, figs, and the unexpected banana.
There is a crooked ruler that the nurse uses
to measure the moments of happiness—
many moments—she discerns.
Out of the cathedral of the left atrium,
glorious music rises from the white pipe of the aorta.
A complete orchestra the size of an eardrum announces
that the still life within the painter's heart moves.

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