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Poetry and Medicine
September 1, 1999

Encounter in a Parking Lot

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;282(9):814A. doi:10.1001/jama.282.9.814

So strange, the words she flung
from fissured mouth, her fragile hair
white, blowing, her cheeks rage-whipped,
thick-stockinged legs bowing in the breeze.
Seventy-something eyes
that should have smiled
like somebody's grandmother,
crisped me, instead—
and my shopping cart,
full tilt aginst her fender, fresh-scarred.
You people are all the same,
she hissed. Go back to Mexico.
So strange, the thoughts that birthed
and almost voiced
from my indignant brown-skinned soul.
I'm a doctor, lady, and it's not Mexico.
(As if India made it better.) But worse
the shock of a smugness festering,
drained by her lancing words.
Blood, liver, lungs, the same beneath
all skin, yet a coat of white
had darkened mine with ugly taint.
Sorry, I said, of course I'll pay.
And yes, we people are all the same.