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Poetry and Medicine
June 11, 2014


Author Affiliations
  • 1Brookline, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2014;311(22):2338. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285647
She lay before us, steeped in vaporsof formalin, her body a sarcophagus that once contained a woman, bled dry of memories, name effaced.We worked our scalpels tiredthrough what remained— skin, sinew, wall of bone. With atlases splayed open, we ventured beneath the surface. The taking apart was easy—artifacts inventoried to piece together history, rotated in light, arranged to fit on metal trays, displayed as sum of parts. Under the glare of lamps we mappedcranial lakes, traced the alveolar labyrinth, scaled the spinal scaffold to reach cavitiesuntouched by sunlight where we plucked what had withered on arterial vines—womb that battled a clock, heart that raced under caress or fear now motionless in our trembling hands.