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Poetry and Medicine
May 20, 2009

A Note to His Surgeon

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2009;301(19):1967. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.532

I know the arteries that keep the heart
Pain free, and I know that your art
Is tricking them to detour the debris.
Come this way, you say, take the open route
And blood cells rush back to the starving heart
Like rivers splash home to a grateful sea.
I know this, so I prayed that your smooth blade
Would cut for him a gentle, perfect way
And fly him safely home again to me.
But knowledge of anatomy and skill
Comfort only so far, and cannot still
The stubborn fears that linger in their wake.
Instead, the consolations the mind takes
When what we hold most precious is at stake
Are curious, unsound, illogical.
Of these offenses, find me culpable
For mine was this: his heart's unstoppable
And so it cannot fail, or die, or break.
Irrational, a child's fantastic view
Yet sir, I still believed it to be true!
And holding on to both—your skill, his heart
I found that I was right in every part.