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Poetry and Medicine
January 8, 2003

Figuring the Landscape

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;289(2):141. doi:10.1001/jama.289.2.141

The distant waterfall is a brush stroke
like green tea pouring from a spout.
Leaning on crutches, he spots a path.
It switchbacks through pines,
vanishes in mist at the click
of the museum guard's shoes.
He inches his cast forward,
the fractured ankle, recalls boots,
backpack, a clearing near tree line, a faint
roar across the valley—a cascade
tracing a fault down granite.
Will I ever go there again?
he asks himself, replies Stupid, stupid,
for the ankle cracked on his own slick deck
as he turned to look at stars.
Above mist, the path reaches a bamboo hut
and two seated figures with cups of tea
on the last of six folded panels.
He places himself there for a moment—
a sip, the time it takes the fibula to knit one
stitch—then turns his crutches away.