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Poetry and Medicine
March 11, 1998

Rowing Sylvan Cove

JAMA. 1998;279(10):726J. doi:10.1001/jama.279.10.726

With J.C.

I can't imagine your thinking
or why you concentrate so hard
—jaws tight, teeth bare, clamped.
Your spine stiff as a board.
Even so, you're good enough
not to be annoyed by questions
about poetry,
grappling to keep our boat
headed toward the dock.
I thought my inquiry might
trick your frontal lobes,
release deeper levels
—get the body parts working
for the same port.
Then, on your own,
you lean forward with each reset
of the oars.
It's a wonder I hadn't noticed,
your back muscles
not pulling a full share.
The breakthrough comes
with our third catch of dungeness crab.
Gradually it begins to go smoother
—rowing a direct course seems possible.
I'm sorry we had to leave then,
—another catch and I think
you would have got it all together.
"And maybe tomorrow," I tell myself,
"I can get my life straight, too"
All this zigzagging
gets me a pain in the neck.

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