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Poetry and Medicine
July 9, 2003

After Sextuple Bypass Surgery

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;290(2):162. doi:10.1001/jama.290.2.162

"You requested a visitation," the chaplain said,
hovering doubtful and black-garbed beside my bed.
"Wrong room," I said, not unkindly.
Then noting his collar, added
"I'm old and sick,
not Catholic."
He looked forlorn
so I said he could stay,
even offered him my Jell-o,
which he ate, by the way.
"I have nightmares," I mentioned.
"Is it the morphine?" he questioned.
"Maybe. Still, every night I'm standing
on an empty stage.
The audience has left.
I'm alone. I'm afraid."
"Are you a person of faith?" he probed.
"A mathematician," I said, "brought low
by angina and clogged arteries."
"I never had a head for numbers,"
the chaplain confessed. "It must be nice
not to roll the dice,
to work at something sure."
"That's where you're wrong."
I painfully scribbled out
a theorem, rather long.
"Mathematics solves a lot of problems,
but the catch is it only solves 'em
if you're willing to accept
certain premises."
He smiled a bit. "On faith."
"On faith," I agreed. "That old nemesis."
Contemplating the final curtain,
we gave a nod in recognition
believers both and both uncertain.

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