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Poetry and Medicine
May 28, 2014

Side Effects

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Literature and Languages, Dominican University of California, San Rafael
JAMA. 2014;311(20):2130. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285905

You wake up one morning and find
you’re encased in someone else’s skin.
So this is what the much-touted
alien invasion was all about.
They should have at least given you
a certificate, or your favorite hyacinth.
Instead, they crawled in
through every tight orifice
to play badminton across your chest.
They’ve fashioned ingenious boats
from bone chips and are now
angling through your aortic valve,
crowding the rail to get a glimpse
of your pulsing bloody heart,
your vast, mitochondrial operations.
But soon after the bon voyage,
the hulls scrape bottom, breach
capillary walls,
and it’s the Titanic all over again,
blue, horror-struck, gasping—who knew
aliens need to breathe like we do?
By now you’re writhing in bed,
reading up on anastrozole and its many
unpleasant effects.
You wonder if your affairs are in order,
if those tiny scientists will
get back to their flagship in time.

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