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Poetry and Medicine
June 23/30, 2004

Benign Fasciculations

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(24):2918. doi:10.1001/jama.291.24.2918

One day, unprovoked,
a small snake ripples
in my thigh, unbidden as a tic
around the eye. Something
broken to congeal the honey
in my flesh,
a beehive gone awry.
Under a harsh light, you
report the nexus spread
like a brush-fire's nascent flame
to calves and head.
A syncopated wave
of muscular babble
unrecruited by anything
I've done or said, and then
I tell you I'm dead;
a droplet poised
at the end of life's spout.
Just a few months
till my spinal cord rots,
breath is snuffed, and crawlers
pick my femurs clean.
At night I shout,
pursued by visions
of catacombs, of men I've tended,
slowly wasted to the bone,
wide-eyed as inmates
from the camps,
begging God to take them home.
You, merciful queen
hold my head in the unravelling
of this delicate thread;
my tears repentant
for the births and sunsets not seen,
arrivals and migrations,
aspirations left unsaid.
I fall asleep on a spread of nails,
pierced by every tip-toe
of this animal beneath my skin.
Until salvation comes
from a colleague's keen mind
and calm hand. Who declares
this invasion, benign.

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