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Poetry and Medicine
December 13, 2006

Spasmodic Torticollis

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2006;296(22):2656. doi:10.1001/jama.296.22.2656

It sounded
like an Italian dish,
something with artichokes,
fresh bell peppers,
curvy pasta and asparagus,
not a malady. The doctor said,
It happened while you slept
face down on one side
for too long. . .
I felt like a horse
in blinders—unable to turn
toward the pain
of an excruciating
street scene.
When I tried to glance
over my shoulder
at the younger self
who watched
me from shadow,
I held the rigid posture
of a schoolmarm
who would not listen
to a tattletale, no matter
what the story.
It was as if a stiff,
uncompromising widow
had replaced me.
Where was the hapless,
disorderly sleep
of that younger woman
who had, with her easy manners
and the breath of her sexiness,
for too many years
eluded me.

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