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Poetry and Medicine
January 9, 2013

The Queen of Sweden

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Department of Preventive Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook (

JAMA. 2013;309(2):117. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.13275

The transport girl, Garbo as a kid
with acne, backs my wheelchair
through an open elevator door.
I sit with belongings on my lap,
as she patters about the photos
she found in her mother's things
after the funeral. My grandfather,
she bursts, was a cook for the queen
of Sweden. Seventeen floors
without stopping. Doors open. One day
when I marry, she confides, I’ll
have money and visit the palace.
Like Stockholm, the lobby bustles
with iPhones and roses. White coats
carry cards of survival for some
and scripts that call for the death
of others. My Garbo fidgets
her fingernails between necessity
and hope, transfixed by palaces
of desire. Half here and half there,
weakened, I await the car.

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