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Poetry and Medicine
August 4, 1999

The Graveyard Shift

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;282(5):410B. doi:10.1001/jama.282.5.410

Mary Mullins sings arias
to fall asleep. Pete Lungren says
his rosary seven times and Alex
Malarchek recounts the day's events
to his dead sister, Edith, who succumbed
to pneumonia at the age of six.
Angela Parsons makes her first med rounds
on the graveyard shift. Mrs. McElroy
insists it is lunchtime. George Altschuler
gets two Halcions; the patient
in the next bed is on a respirator.
It is all so commonplace
after six years. Time crawls
under the yellow night-lights. Dreams
cantilever to childhood. Dollhouses
and baseball cards float down
and are punctured by nineteen-gauge needles.
Angela sometimes laughs. What else
is there to do? Jacob Minter mumbles something
too lurid to be believable. Arthur Cornwall
lets out a long low moan. It is nothing
that Percocet will alleviate.