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Poetry and Medicine
June 5, 2013

After the Fall

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Ballard Pediatric Clinic, Seattle, Washington (

JAMA. 2013;309(21):2191. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.233593

About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters.—W. H. Auden

On a ledge one hundred forty feet below the peak
the medic spots two twisted legs. No motion
but blond hair whipping in the rotor wash.
They’d pulled others off before, none alive.
The trauma center reports brain injury, multiple
fractures of ribs, tibias, spine, burst bladder,
pelvic ring, punctured lung.
Then pins and wires, sutures and stents, IVs
and morphine, all their craft employed to mend
this teenage frame. Then awake, then rehab,
then home in a wheelchair.
For ten long weeks I follow the reports
on this unlikely Icarus, then find his name
among today's appointments. He walks
into the room, forms in hand, to inquire
how soon he might be cleared for soccer.
“How did it go?” I ask. “OK,” he says,
“except the bumpy ride to rehab. They
promised the ambulance had new shocks.
No way. I suffered during that.”

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