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Poetry and Medicine
June 17, 2009

The Heart and Lung Waiting Room

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2009;301(23):2422. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.678

at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky
As morning strains to pump daylight
through the tinted windows of the waiting room,
a family's prayers embrace the air.
Elevator doors slice through conversations
surrounding the nervous tic of a clock.
People clutching pillows wrestle with sleep,
their dreams splintered by wooden chair arms.
Meanwhile, a voice repeatedly sounds
a doctor's name over the intercom.
The receptionist knits her brows, caught up
in the muffled yarn of a TV talk show
while, for those wrapped in worry,
time moves more slowly than color returning to a face.
Letters forever blocked inside a crossword puzzle
rest beneath an outpatient's false teeth
clenched in a container on a table.
Beside herself, a woman standing alone in a corner
clasps her coffee, as dark, swirled,
and hard to stomach as the moment before her.

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