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Poetry and Medicine
May 13, 2009


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2009;301(18):1858. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.766

Not so much
     the lidocaine’s
eager bee sting,
nor the narrow needle
     probing her left breast
to aspirate fluid
     from the carrot-shaped dark
found by ultrasound.
Not pain per se—
      rather what follows.
The barrel-shape vial
     and honey-thick fluid
marked with her name
     and date of birth.
No, not the stinging,
     nor the dull ache
that inhabits the hive
     of her breast
The problem lies
     in the vocabulary
of pathology.
Ducts trail
patterns on film,
their way back
     to the inverted nipple
she found while standing nude
     before the same mirror
that gave her middle-age,
     grand-motherhood, and dread.
In situ, duct ectasia,
     hyperplasia, carcinoma . . . 
She couldn't feel
more like a hostage
were she to don
the bee's jacketed stripes,
the garb of the jail.