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Poetry and Medicine
February 8, 2012


Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Charlottesville, Virginia (horsleyrb@gmail.com).

JAMA. 2012;307(6):544. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.2007

It is not self-pity
that brings me
to write about this knifed body.
It is the quest
to understand the change.
My abdomen, though never flat, was smooth.
Now a scar ratchets up
from pubic bone to navel. Steri strips
and blood scabs will slough off
and cocoa butter will lighten the line, yet
I am different in this vessel, only a vessel.
I miss what was there
and imagine the cavity
where the delicate tube kissed the ovary
then twisted to seduce the appendix,
a messy relationship,
a bloody ménage à trois
that spermless spawned
an offspring,
a red mass of questions,
an apple-sized engulfment
intent on murder-suicide.
Morphine dreams I cannot remember;
friends' voices receding from my consciousness.
At night, surgeons appear like specters;
a chaplain in horn-rimmed glasses
holds my hand, prays at my fears;
the roommate snores over the thin voices
of the TV she has left on. I gaze
through open slats of blinds at stars,
crave to break through glass and steel,
to breathe.