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Poetry and Medicine
February 6, 2002

Cutting Toenails at 82

Author Affiliations
 

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

JAMA. 2002;287(5):556. doi:10.1001/jama.287.5.556

I have forced my feet
To shuffle beside his
Down the faded halls
Of the Wade Park VA
Where his colored cane,
Like the lights of an ambulance,
Screams—I'm blind, out of my way.
He is an old big rig man
Who is now driven by my eyes
As I escort him to the podiatry clinic
Where he will culminate
His day of a basal cell biopsy
With a clipping of toenails—
How embarrassing, he says,
To have another man clip your nails
While I, the medical student his grandson's age,
Try to tell him it's all okay
As I watch the toenails fall to the floor
And wonder when my clippings
Will begin to steal a part of me away.

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