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Poetry and Medicine
September 27, 2000

Frozen Shoulder

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2000;284(12):1488. doi:10.1001/jama.284.12.1488

How unlikely the doctor should call it
the center of coldness, the shoulder,
always malingering on the sidelines,
the shoulder, and not
the mind, deep in the skull's dark crypt,
stuttering in its icy rut,
or the heart, little pendulum
agoraphobic as ever,
not the heart, but its homely neighbor,
the left shoulder, hunched like a judge
over the left hand, purveyor of secrecy,
yes, the shoulder, that master
of exclusion that leads the back
as it turns away from invitation,
turns away from the husband, the mother,
the sister, turns again
out of habit, perversity, inattention
and after decades of such turning,
after years of travel,
the tired metaphor cold shoulder
blunders through the labyrinth of sinew and nerve
to arrive at the frozen wall of refusal
where it butts against bone
then finally hardens into fact.

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