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Poetry and Medicine
September 8, 1999

The Puzzles

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;282(10):924G. doi:10.1001/jama.282.10.924

They spent afternoons healing landscapes,
filling in, a mountainside in only two hours.
They reunited still lifes,
the pear back with its grapes and vase.
And then her cells crowded into the picture.
It was her system he loved,
her practical philosophy.
First, all the pieces turned up
so you could see what you had,
even if it was only a scrap of yellow.
Then the border,
the tell-tale straight edge making it easy,
why not make it easy?
Then the heart of the matter,
castle, boat dock, whatever.
Finally the most difficult,
the sky, the water, the field,
the vague blue-green that held it together.
Best was the missing piece—
lost, never included?—
always one he wouldn't know about
until the sky's odd-shaped little completion
couldn't be found.
Mass-produced, sentimental,
they're a gallery around the basement pool table,
varnished but never finished.
He's sure now she hid it.