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Poetry and Medicine
April 22 2009

The Widower Surgeon’s Lament

Author Affiliations
 

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2009;301(16):1636. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.381

My skin falls off in ashy scales.
The one who used to smooth the balm
too rough at times, too quick
is gone. She was my wife, my nurse, my life.
She chose the tools I had to learn
slapped them in my open hand
a clap of steel on rubber glove,
I never had to call.
I learned their surnames, every tool,
the clamps, the forceps, scissors, too.
I learned to cut, to tie, to sew;
my gentle teacher already knew.
Now with open hands I call,
Metzenbaum, where is my life?
Richardson, where is my nurse?
Sabiston, where is my wife?
My skin falls off in itchy scales.
and she, who would have known
just what to use
is gone.
Too slow, too slow this turn
From rashes into dust.

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