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Poetry and Medicine
October 18, 2000

Coming to Terms

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2000;284(15):1900. doi:10.1001/jama.284.15.1900

I'm drawn to the jargon of repair,
the sound of a specialized language.
My uncle invoked electrical magic:
armatures, windings,
capacitors, resistors.
I asked if his ohm-meter
could measure meditation,
he couldn't see what was so funny.
I'm intrigued
by garage poetics, the talk of mechanics
(when divorced from the bill),
the greasy esoterica
stays with me.
Throw-out bearings. McPherson struts,
camber & caster & top dead center,
the cosmic implications of universal joints.
Tantalizing terms,
incantations of restoration.
Now it's starting to show through,
the black canvas on which my images
of the world are painted,
and I am so like my eyes,
absorbent pupils,
learning the terminology
of ophthalmology.
Aqueous humor, fovea centralis.
There's trouble in the trabecular meshwork.
I've peeked ahead
to the back of the book
and seen some bad ones:
absolute glaucoma, snuff-out effect.
The eye doc floats in miotic darkness
behind the slit-lamp,
then enters the window of my soul.
She pronounces me stable,
murmurs her soothing mantra:
cornea clear,
anterior chamber deep & quiet.

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