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Poetry and Medicine
March 11, 1998


Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;279(10):726P. doi:10.1001/jama.279.10.726

For J. W.

If I slide the edge of Orcas Island
along your shoulder, surely I'll steer
our boat to the future—
and so I imagined that the distant
fits the familiar. Neck straight, jaw clamped—
I didn't know an island could jump
in the space of a stroke, nor that my arms
were bent on mutiny.
That bone-like rattle at the base of the cliff
is a kingfisher. You tried to distract me
with nature, hoping I'd loosen my mind
from the task—allow the rhythm within
to take hold—but all I heard was slosh
and failed oars. The kingfisher skidded
across the bay in her perfect action.
Later, you crushed and cleaned our crabs
and tossed them into a pot. The water
was already murmuring, Change, change.

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