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Poetry and Medicine
September 12, 2012

A Patient Sees His CT Scan

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Granger, Indiana (

JAMA. 2012;308(10):956. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6838

Pictures prowl across the monitor,
then leap into a single frame.
His gaze locks onto a vertebra
with defects like craters,
excavated by a voracious crab.
Pain flares in his back.
The view transforms
into a white blot
with tendrils that infiltrate
adjacent lung.
Ghostly images
on a computer screen
shadow all his days to come.
That night,
amid lilac and jasmine,
he lies
in his garden,
a star-watcher,
shrouded in darkness,
while Cancer lingers
in the luminous blackness
of the sky.

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