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Books, Journals, New Media
February 18, 2004

Poetry

Author Affiliations
 

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(7):885. doi:10.1001/jama.291.7.885-a

The Brain Stem, a clutch of nerves
gathered like a garland at the waist,
sucks itself in, slithers
through the spinal canal.
It swings in its bony shaft,
careful of sharp rim edges
poised to pierce with tight tentorial teeth—
with any shift. Within its tapered bulb,
nerve cells cluster, ready for action—
to wink an eye, slow the heart.
Here lies the on-off switch
of consciousness, resting
against a razor edge. Swell the brain
by stroke or tumor—
the switch is thrown, the world
grows dim as if planned
with tenderness—first the gift of sleep,
then the dicing of the brain.
—Jay Liveson
(1937-2002)

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