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Poetry and Medicine
May 12, 2004


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(18):2174. doi:10.1001/jama.291.18.2174

All one needs are two apples, a fish and the Moroccan light.
              —Henri Matisse, in a letter

There is no suffering here.
In the buttery light, Simon is cleaning the monkfish,
his ruffled curls fly over the knife.
He splits the fish clean, it grins on the rutted sink.
Blood drains to the basin: I stare at a river of red,
almost forgetting weeks of being propped up like
an invalid upstairs in the pine bed, pain driving
its hard engines with an insistence,
putting the body to a test.
But Simon is here now,
singing off-key in this tiny kitchen, spilling
his beer, twirling and dancing the two-step.
A paper napkin catches the air, flies up like a white
bird. How he works miracles: over fish bones
and blood and over me, now strong enough
to stand and slice apples which I cut
so carefully, gouging out the bruises.
They blaze with a green resplendent light.
There are openings in our lives
where blackness does not stay,
when even despair becomes luminous.

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