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Poetry and Medicine
May 27, 2009


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2009;301(20):2074. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.533

And when she awoke
and sat on the side of the bed
and screamed, “Whoa!”
and her husband said, “Don't yell”
and the world shifted on its axis
and was down-side-up, up-side-down
and she remembered that in the middle
of the night edging toward morning,
she’d heard in the distance a car horn,
and said to herself: “Hold on
to that twangggg or you'll disappear”
and then it was morning and the room
was spinning, and red was streaming
into yellow-gold, into amber-redgreenblue
and the hands of the clock twisted
round and seven was sixty-seven
and no time at all, and she lay back
on the pillow and the long days of her life
threaded through her eye and ear,
through her mouthmouthmouth
that was moving trying to say,
tryingtosay, lips moving
and yesterday came up then
out of her stomach outout upoutup
and in her ear, her heart was beating,
a hammer making its rise and fall,
upand down, downdowndown,
the sound of down ringing
in her ear, and she could hear,
she could not hear, and all the time
her life coming up, throwing up
in time that was not time,
that was morning and was not
and was then another day
and the doctor said
idiopathicendolymphatic hydrops,
and she said, “What? what?”
and he said, “Meniere's”
and said it couldn't be cured,
and she said, “Couldn't?” Said “Can't?”
and he said, “Too much fluid secreted
by the stria vascularis,
but there is an intratympanic
gentamicin treatment
as a last resort,” and she said,
“Yes,” she'd book a flight to Miami,
stay overnight, fly to Aruba, check
into the Riu Paradise Hotel, lie on the sand,
let waves wash over her, and swear
it would not be the last,
no, not the last resort at all.

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