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Poetry and Medicine
September 25, 2002

Speaking Diseases

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;288(12):1444. doi:10.1001/jama.288.12.1444

When I try to speak
the letters break
in waves
like dark cascades
of your hair
in handfuls
of blackness.
And the consonants
that wither
on my tongue
could be your skin,
muscle, tissue
shrinking away
like days on the calendar.
Each day,
a four-sided shape
leaving the life
your body gave it.
Now my own sorrow
is a long vowel
that stays in that silent
before air opens
its ears,
before sound begins
its scratching
of nerves,
a vociferous claw
climbing always climbing

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