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Poetry and Medicine
September 23 2009

Upturned on Virginia Route 311

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2009;302(12):1264. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1226

I’ve misplaced your face among ox-eye
daisies studding hayfields west of Salem
and I’ve forgotten your name, too,
the one I learned standing in a ditch
on the side of the road, early one morning
headed to clinic in New Castle
during hay season. Just past the new mound
system at the Moose Lodge, I slowed for bales
in the road, your car upturned, doors smashed
stuck. I instructed your husband to warm you
with the sun-bleached towel protecting the back-
seat upholstery—he stuck behind the wheel down-
side, you upside slung from your seatbelt. His fingers
found your radial pulse for me. He counted the beats
out loud as I watched the second hand circle
my watch, cars whizzing by. I learned your daughter's
phone number through stellate windows while waiting
on the Jaws of Life. You asked me to describe
the pieces of glass in your face. We compared
the specks to wildflowers in the still standing hay.

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