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Poetry and Medicine
February 6, 2008

Poem not containing the word snake

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2008;299(5):494. doi:10.1001/jama.299.5.494

This morning on the garden path I find a whorl
of scaled collodion shed overnight, complete
from corneas to tail, a sinuous coil
of glistening membrane, its former occupant
now rippling the grass. I wonder
when that time arrived, what signal flared?
Restrictive pellicle, old eyes dim —
no thought of venom, then, or prey.
Which reminds me of our talk
last night, how hard it is to change
oneself for good. How hard to know
the right time to slip off
a useless skin, the right time
to begin again.

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