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Poetry and Medicine
May 19, 2004


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(19):2293. doi:10.1001/jama.291.19.2293

Gathered in clumps along a country lane
purpled cheer blesses the bodies of hikers
who leap puddles of dust or mud,
spatter pebbles and snails with boots
pumping an arrogance of youth.
Dark pink bells chime soundless
in the wind, a spatter of blood-spots
in each tiny mouth where a clapper should be,
tall stalks nodding benediction to girls
giggling on horseback, soft cups hugging
the vibrating bodies of bees.
Up from the roots the poison gathers
toxic sweetness, elixir steeped in bowls
of cream, speckled crimson, held
horizontally along the stoic stem,
flourishing in ordinary soil and sun,
waiting to save the man next door
who finds the treadmill too fast. Knobs
blink, computers graph a heart about to halt.
A jowled woman at the office, pink-pearled,
feels a tightness in her chest, a pain
in her jaw, weakness in her left arm—
the flash of white coats in a hospital hall,
a rush of hands grasping vials
of an ancient serum born in mauve bell-clouds
at the side of an unpaved road, spurting
life into spasms of muscled blue.

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