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Poetry and Medicine
June 18, 2003

Cleaning Up the Women's Health Center

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;289(23):3056. doi:10.1001/jama.289.23.3056

When the last one leaves I autoclave
curettes and specula, lock
away the files and watch Juana,
the maid who fled Salvador
when, inside some shack,
they disappeared her brother.
Displaced herself, she lives by picking up
for us and putting things, dusted, back
or someplace better. Beside
the motor's hum she waves the vacuum
wand in every corner, sucking up
along with this day's dirt,
the gum foil, and wet tissue wads
some stunned girl left behind.
The family planning scraps and follow-up
advice she stuffs in plastic bags
if not exactly trash is merely matter
not wanted where it was on Friday afternoon.
Once the man comes by to take
the sealed and shackled box marked
I'll let her out, open up the shades,
triple bolt the door and leave the clinic empty
until next week.

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