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Poetry and Medicine
June 13, 2007

Meditation on Craniocaudal Folding

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;297(22):2451. doi:10.1001/jama.297.22.2451

This morning, leafing through a science magazine, I read
Every human life starts as a tube-shaped embryo
In which the heart (the natural perch of love, it's often said)
Sits high up while the brain (the seat of reason) lies down low.
Then, before birth, the embryo folds like a folding bed:
That's how your heart ends up positioned far beneath your head.
By letting this happen, we're all guilty of complicity
In a crime as infamous as Adam's and Eve's was:
Namely, the forcible subjugation of the deity
Of love to the tyranny of mortal reason. Thus,
Before we're even born, all human beings come to owe
Cupid a debt, which we pay off by making works of art
That honor him. In this, we are inspired by the show
Staged daily by the sunstruck swan who preens in Central Park
And whose neck often folds so that his head's beneath his heart.

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