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Poetry and Medicine
May 4, 2005

Survivor’s Tale

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to

JAMA. 2005;293(17):2068. doi:10.1001/jama.293.17.2068

Love is always
Tibia, fibula, radius, ulna,
something of a war story—
metacarpals, metatarsals, the femur
a war story that is singular and private,
patella, distal phalanges, mandibular crescents
like the private room where they archive survivors’ tales
and slices of periosteum—lost bone shield.
Tales told by the ones not visibly ill, but
and the ischium that sounds already squishy
ill nevertheless, shell-shocked, and shoved back by the recoil.
The coccyx and pubis are tougher,
those shoved back again,
like the scapula and clavicle,
and again into a nest made of broken arms, organic atoms
used to bearing weight,
atoms poorly knitted into shrinking bones,
and cousins to the thoracic vertebrae—
bones barely filled with marrow,
all close to the cervical vertebrae, the occipital and parietal skull plates,
and marrow is what the wolves eat first.
And the frontal continent of cranium, that cavity now home to useless maps.

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