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Poetry and Medicine
November 17, 2010

Why I Am Not a Pathologist

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2010;304(19):2102. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1539

Clumps of vacuoles mire my sight,
no matter how much I jiggle
the slide, or fiddle with focus.
The higher the power, the bigger
the vacuoles, until under oil
they obscure the slide. I switch
to my other eye—the clumps
of malevolence shift. The only
conclusion—bilateral cancer.
My brain sheds layers, loses
its invincible aura. My heart
grows murkier, simmers
with anger and fear. I confess
to my preceptor—melanoma—
and bow before Nemesis.
The professor cocks an eyebrow,
demands I work until the end
of lab, pierces the windows
of my soul with light, and then
announces, Congenital
central subcapsular cataracts.
Nothing to worry about.
Frozen bubbles I was born with
mirrored and magnified, just
spots of imperfection, but . . . 
what about that cauldron of death
already bubbling within?

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