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Poetry and Medicine
August 23/30, 2000

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Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(8):932. doi:10.1001/jama.284.8.932

"Generativity vs Stagnation"
—Erik Erikson, Eight Ages of Man

It rained for days. I didn't leave my bed,
my eight square cubits raft, where wakefulness
paired off with sleep and waited out the storm
listening to the downpour's banal riffs—
old age, an empty nest, a writer's block.
I heard the water seep between the roots
of the brown lawn, leaching toward bedrock.
The rotten mortar of the cellar stones
succumbed to the spill's slow cadence, crumb by crumb,
until flood engulfed my basement and my dream,
and five mildewing cartons, never unpacked
after the last move, saw the double O
of BOOKS grow lachrymose to navy blue,
before it and CHILDREN'S blurred and washed away.
Then masking tape eeled off, and the coeloms breached,
releasing swarms of unhinged bivalves, bright
abecedaries that unlettered into fey
animalcules of utterance, phonemic clouds
boiling in the sewer's methane vents
and ammonia jets from the swamped litter box,
as one old egg, bedeviled, high and damp
above the toolbench, grew sulfidious.
This crowded broth lapped at the metal hull
of the circuit breakers (Electrolux)
till lightning arced across the primordial
face of the soup, code found anticode,
complement uncoiled from complement,
transcription begat translation begat Ur-text:
From stagnation let there regenerate
the submerged infant and the drowned-out poem.

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