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Poetry and Medicine
January 20, 1999

Trembling on my back in Emergency

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;281(3):216R. doi:10.1001/jama.281.3.216

towel balled and reddening in my hand,
I remember you smiling, calmer than I
with my arterial nick, an orderly
wheeling you in for amputation.
When I tried unscrewing a lamp fixture
the glass globe exploded in my hand.
Anything more than a handful, the adolescent
saying goes, is wasted. The breast
you gave—your left
our favorite—
vanished. A nurse soaps my finger's
base, red shoots against the wall,
wedding ring clatters in the stainless sink.
At a Christmas party, the baby you held,
as if your own, fingered your padded blouse,
chewed your red necklace.
A doctor arrives with blue thread,
explains a cut nerve at the second joint,
strings the moment like a bead.