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Poetry and Medicine
February 7, 2001

Radiation Oncology

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2001;285(5):507. doi:10.1001/jama.285.5.507

The car noses the street like a bloodhound on scent.
A few stops to sniff the air, then the trail resumes
full speed, as the unrelenting hand approaches the six.
There is a standing appointment, and my Volvo has kept it,
daily, for some weeks.
Two stories underground,
in dim light, with hushed voices, they come in all shapes,
sizes, and colors, the formless, the skeletal, and the bald.
They share this eerie underworld with the undulating jewels
in the immaculate aquarium, maintained to distract us
from what is to come.
Then, there will be the hum
of giant magnets; a massive gantry will move overhead
as if to crush the crucified. Laser beams will blaze
for instant alignment. Lead shields will be slid
into their calculated slots. And in the cool dark,
the merciless rays will shower their programmed death
on the too-fecund, the supernumerary, the illegal aliens.

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