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Poetry and Medicine
July 7, 2004

Dancing Circus of My Brain

JAMA. 2004;292(1):16. doi:10.1001/jama.292.1.16

Finally, I understand—
there are clowns in there,
eighteen of them, crowded into
my frontal cortex, riding tiny
silver unicycles back to the striate
gyrus never once stopping for tea
or Oreos. Red bulbous noses poke into empty
receptors that should be locking
dopamine into my substantia nigra.
Fierce lions roar along neurons of night
freezing axoplasm in fear, snyaptic
vesicles can't go with the flow.
Chinese acrobats fling purple silk bands
at ribbon synapses confusing my
photoreceptors—Dark?
Light? Elephants grab tails
and march lockstep across my medulla
oblongata, rhythms pound, no word—
the tales are only mime.
Exquisite athletes climb to
trapezes, whisk endorphins
away, pile up acetylcholine
in the hippocampus, while dancers
on stilts tango in the fibrils.
No wonder trumpets sound, drums riff
at will—
theirs, not mine.

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