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Poetry and Medicine
December 12, 2007

Surgery Rotation

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;298(22):2590. doi:10.1001/jama.298.22.2590

You explained that something had been wrong
from the start, a misconception:
one life that briefly looked like two.
Something vital had failed to develop
and died, though the attachment
remained, deforming and unhealthy,
draining life from the viable one
and needed to be severed—quickly,
decisively. You described the four legs,
the collapsed backpack of teeth and hair,
how you could disentangle her
and leave no scar.
We were eating breakfast. Eggs and tea.
For the first time all summer,
you spoke with a kind of glee,
the week you said, “I want to be a surgeon”
and ended things with me.

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