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Poetry and Medicine
January 25, 2012


Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Department of Preventive Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook (jcoulehan@notes.cc.sunysb.edu).

JAMA. 2012;307(4):340. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1864

A fantastic topic! This morning’s
Grand Rounds is thoroughly erect
and in the dark! Nesidio
appears for the first time without his turban
and uniform, addressing the audience
on enzymes and the Islets in his
dazzling dialect of molecules—
but Nesidio's story, his beliefs
about ambivalence and pain, his forging
a pact with forces of destruction,
the body's distress and resistance,
the fine silk pantaloons of Nesidio's
culture—all this is lost to listeners,
who struggle with numbness and armor,
and seek evidence of important times
in teeth marks on their Styrofoam cups.
Blastosis. My tongue lingers with reverence
for science and uncertainty about
Nesidio, whose presence this morning
is unaccounted for. A strange little man
with dozens of terminally thin
slices of pancreas. A series
of diagrams that string the tiniest
aphids of life together. Is his
a nom de guerre? It's nearly eleven
and none of the scattered, seated bodies
asks a question, even though an awkward
balloon, filled with the bold caption,
BLASTOSIS! has risen above each head
in the room—except two. Some of the balloons
twitch, others divide. No sacred liturgies
this morning, no blessings, and no quips.
Nesidio has done his level best
and now retires. A scent of loneliness
lies in wait. How worn the felt is
on the ancient auditorium seats!