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Poetry and Medicine
March 10, 2010


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2010;303(10):920. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.172

At the bottom
   of the tea cup,
the last leaves of lemongrass
spell a new fortune:
   There will be a nap in your future.
That future has already
   a past. Each day's worth
of tea-leavings:
       a bog
from which my tired body,
   tries to slog its slow way
       way up from.
In the kitchen, the bright
   clatter of cutlery. And
 the high-pitched chatter,
         the laughter
of relatives
   I’m named after.
Their sharpened knives
   chop chives on the oiled
block. Heady scents
rise from
   wooden scars.
It will be gradual,
the return to health—
   tendered by the same
         hidden hands
that furrow my brow,
give me my
   upside-down smile.
I am the joke
   my family of strangers visits.
I am their laughter
  and sigh,
their catharsis at not being me
as a lemon
       stung by its second cut.

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