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Poetry and Medicine
March 18, 2009

There is no cure

JAMA. 2009;301(11):1103. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.215

There is no cure. Remember at five years old
there was an open field, beyond it rows of corn;
at twenty-five there is that same billowing field,
you are on it. The river threatens to rise this year;
it is pure. The doctors suggest salt; you tasted
it first out there, when the wind left it on your face.
The barn foundations cannot take another flood,
it could float away. At five you imagined
sitting on the tin roof, carried down the Saint John.
At twenty-five the doctors are in the field,
they ask you what you have to lose;
soon it will be time to mow and hay,
you tell them that the grass can grow only so high;
and what kind of loss would it have to be?
The doctors shake their heads like farmers do
when the season's been bad. The river is for play
or for death; at five there was not enough day or choice;
at twenty-five you are on a perfect plain, unchanged from years ago;
the white coats on the plain do not talk of love,
though you do. This is when they shake their heads
and say that you have a choice.

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