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Poetry and Medicine
December 23/30, 1998

Arrhythmias on Mir

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;280(24):2070E. doi:10.1001/jama.280.24.2070

The space walk to repair the crippled space station Mir has been postponed while Mir Commander Tsibliyev undergoes evaluation for an irregular heartbeat. "This is not good timing," said Tsibliyev.—CNN News

The way a crystal forms around a speck of dust,
the heart sharpens around the thought
that you, yes, necessarily are
The one for the job.
And the way it will go
according to plan.
The hatch will open, yes, your swift, expert repair, Houston
ecstatic, Moscow subdued, but proud, all that face saved.
And then the palpitation
The out of order part.
It could be anything
Ice forms; a gasket snaps. A local space-time perturbation.
Houston is desperate, Moscow stoic, but sorry, and your receding blur
makes the cover of Time, with a poem by Pasternak.
In your bright suit
spilled like mercury from a fever's bulb
slipping from shape and wish and insulation
The cord takes forever to uncoil
in the one direction left
This is where it mutinies, the heart
beats it out of you, you drop the spoon.
In spite of everything, your good name, perestroika
The honor of your daughters
you see the mirror, you in it
nit, nidus, specific
stuff of star

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