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Books, Journals, New Media
February 2, 2005

Prognosis

Author Affiliations
 

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia Campus, Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAMA. 2005;293(5):623-629. doi:10.1001/jama.293.5.623a

In the deep of night, I turn my mistakes over
like Tarot cards, one by one.
First, a mother’s face holds the memory of a close call;
next, her child pleads for help:
All I do is pray. Everywhere I go, I talk to God.
The third card is the father. He comes by commuter train
from New York City. One night he brings a surprise—
a leather saddle with fringe, oiled
and wrapped in a newspaper. Finally,
Mother replies: Just stop praying and everything will be okay.
Every Friday, the child cleans her saddle.
It’s so slippery, she falls off her horse
and spends a week in the hospital. The nurses’ hands
are fragile as oxygen. They hide silver scissors in their aprons.
In the next card, the girl herself is a nurse,
washing a comatose boy.
She gives the boy his medicine. Right then,
his heart stops. I turn over the hangman—
it’s the nurse in her white stockings and petticoat,
stiff as an upside-down clothespin.
In the last card, a couple dances,
then they grow silent and cold.
She sits in bed watching ER . He
manipulates landscapes over the Internet.
There is so much to do:
balance the checkbook, rescue the children,
buy more insurance, pay the debts.
Reshuffle the deck.

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