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Poetry and Medicine
February 15, 2006

A Heart's Enlargement

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2006;295(7):729. doi:10.1001/jama.295.7.729

I’ll need you to take off your shirt
you say as you lead me into a small room.
Instructing me to lie on my left side,
you turn out the light, settle into a chair
beside the exam table, flick a switch—
a monitor bathes your face in blue
and red. You squeeze clear jelly
onto a stainless disc—This will
give a picture of the true size of your heart
the two of us here to see about possible
atrial enlargement. Echocardiogram—
Echo, the Greek nymph whom Pan tore
to pieces out of hopeless love for her—transmits
and reflects ultrasonic waves as you glide
the disc slowly across my chest, my heart
in your hand. Patches of blue and red pulse
across the screen—Doppler, like weather
systems on TV, you saywhile chambers
measure out blood. Here in the dark,
the wave of your hair as it touches your
short-sleeved sweater, a curve in your chin,
the arch of your neck from shoulders to jaw,
strike me as those of a woman
I once loved. You, stranger
I only know as EchoTech: Is that hint
of a smile as you gaze intently
at the screen, your other hand
busy with dials to clarify the image—
is that the smile of someone viewing
every secret of the heart?

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