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Poetry and Medicine
June 12, 2013

Scenes From a Cystoscopy

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Memphis, Tennessee (

JAMA. 2013;309(22):2306. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.71

In my scuba-diving days,
claustrophobia obliged
my swimming shy of wrecks and caves.
But today I can be my own
Jacques Cousteau, suggests the nurse
as she applies a warmly frigid
analgesic to my glans penis.
Like Booth playing Caesar,
my urologist sweeps into
the operating theater and
directs my attention to an
overhead monitor. I might
find this interesting, he says
as he guns the cystoscope through
my urethral opening. It's the
Universal Studios version of
The Voyage to My Bladder, accompanied
by authentic physical sensations.
Here a stricture, there a sphincter.
Capillaries, tissue—it's all so real.
Cowper's gland slips by unnoticed
as we pass a duct with a catchy name
and punch through my prostatic lobes
the bump door portal to our goal, then
break into a vista to give us the bends.
Like a Captain Nemo in the saloon
of the doomed Titanic, I float free in
the calm sterility of my own urine,
aqua-spelunking after all these years,
—from the outside in.

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