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Poetry and Medicine
July 6, 2011


Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

Author Affiliation: Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts (swakeman@partners.org).

JAMA. 2011;306(1):17. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.851

I summitted a mountain once,
sixteen thousand and then some.
My feet stepped carefully
onto steps carved by cold ax metal,
high on an icy shoulder of a Himalayan ridge.
Now those feet make rubber-soled squeaks,
Days and miles pile up
under the harsh light of long corridors,
weaving pathways from death to near life
and sometimes back again.
Training we call it.
The hours and years and minutes
trickling it seems until we look back
across a chasm carved by rushing rapids,
distant eager student selves left on the bank.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse—
that long-haired girl,
arms flung fearless and wide.
Catch up! I want to shout.
It's far too easy to leave her behind.