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Poetry and Medicine
January 19, 2016


Author Affiliations
  • 1Newton, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2016;315(3):309. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17343

Does he feel like me?
Does she care, does his art and skill
and will and heart all work as one?
Is she wise?
We go together on these odysseys—
I live within my body, as does he.
My brain is changed by pain and doubt
and what we know too little of
no matter how I dig—they must know more.
But I contain the symptoms ticking off like multiplying clocks,
medications memorized by dose and time,
the errors that I find in almost all encounter notes.
Phone calls, consults, tests, and files pile up
as each condition worsens or arrives.
Some are brief and heal—moments of surprise
in my catalog of comorbidities.
Referred from one physician to the next
each comes with teams to diagnose and manage me,
I manage too, and thank them all,
the growing cohort of my specialists.
I am tired and would rest.
But I’m alive, and fierce, and old,
and life still brightly burns in me,
consuming slowly what there is
while my physicians do their best.

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