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April 5, 1995

One Word

JAMA. 1995;273(13):1068. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520370110051

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Much of the poetry in One Word, by physician Marc Straus, is on illness. His poem "Autumn" first appeared in JAMA. The title poem is reprinted with permission of Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press (copyright 1994 by Marc J. Straus):

One Word

A man at the bus stop stooped

to retrieve a dime rolling toward

the drain. Looking at me, he said,

"No ordinary dime, mister." "Really?" I said,

thinking how life is sometimes reduced

to a single word, a reflex, a courtesy.

Like the time I interviewed this young man

for a job in my lab, my mind wandering,

not attached to the conversation,

at best noticing his outdated tie.

Perhaps in response to some statement,

I said, "Why?" Then sensing the opportunity

he answered more eloquently and that


everything. Like the time a woman walked

into my medical office for one thing

and I put my fingers in

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