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Poetry and Medicine
January 5, 2000

My Big Yes for Maria Krebs

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;283(1):23. doi:10.1001/jama.283.1.23

I told her she needed a measles shot;
she remained calm and said nyet.
Would she like spots on her body
instead? Would she like to be
a red-eyed monster stuck in bed,
allergic to light for a week?
Da! Maria on her mother's lap,
stubborn and volatile: Russia,
two and two thousand years old,
wasn't going to take pain lying down—
With needles sharper than an MMR's
long after her nyets became nos,
this ruddy kukla thrashed about
stabbed by headaches. We were perplexed;
her migraines were upside-down rabbis
fiddling over Vitebsk. Atypical, we said—
Compared to hers, most headaches are
small as mice on Russian steppes,
yet this cub returned to shore
and shook them off like water.
Six months later, she was dead. She had
some "congenital, metabolic disease,"
a billion bloody wrenches thrown by chance
into her mitochondria. Did Death
like the Fool in Boris Godinov, cry
"Weep, starving people," and have the last word?
No—She made us see things differently.
So where is Maria, flux and swirl,
still rising through soulscapes called
"Life" by a cosmic Chagall? Da