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December 3, 2003

Rustling of Blue Paper Gowns(murmur) CREATIVE WRITING

JAMA. 2003;290(21):2878. doi:10.1001/jama.290.21.2878-a
Rustling of Blue Paper Gowns

and rattlings of archaic instruments in
tin pans through the doors
remind me, with some alarm,
to remove my jewelry, already scrubbed and sterile:
dropping a silver ball into a specimen jar
sliding the crescent ring from my skin
where a hole will close in two days,
a watch, a gift from my father,
inscribed for my 21st birthday, proud of you.
A ring on my pinky, a small red stone,
shoved impolitely into a burnished silver housing
leaving a sharp edge that would tear through a glove
and leave me or a patient exposed
to what simple animosities
inhabit our surfaces;
and the last ring, from my wife, which comes off
with some effort and soap,
nearly slips from my finger into the drain
giving me a start, and my hands shake,
my pulse a hammer;
and the junior resident winks, says
first do no harm,
and the scrub nurse asks my glove size
as I back through the doors,
arms up to the skies in vague protest, and I say
what's the biggest you got for small hands?
and she says, it don't matter, darling,
they all stretch.

Editor's Note: Both poems were winners of this year's William Carlos Williams poetry contest. Please refer to the MSJAMA Web site (http://www.msjama.org) for more information about the contest.—ED.