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Poetry and Medicine
March 13, 2013


Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: General Academic Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (

JAMA. 2013;309(10):963. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.110986

for Jerome Liebman, MD

I burrow the diaphragm under the shirt
laying it first
below the nipple
then moving it,
like a dancer's feet,
to the left
then forward
until I find it, the comforting
of the double beat
the split of the second sound
opening and closing
with each breath.
There is much relief
in the predictable monotony
of this metronome
soft reassurance
running in rubber tubing
across tympanic membrane
through seashell cochlea, tumbling
inside the vestibule of the eighth nerve.
I recognize the rhythm,
dependable friend.
I hold my breath
because I am getting old
and fear the disappearance of the sound
and what that means
about the beating
of my own heart.

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