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Poetry and Medicine
May 24/31, 2000

Bellini Near Paris (1835)

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2000;283(20):2633. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2633

Vincenzo left us in an autumn rain
that came to Puteaux with the equinox.
It washed all blue from the season,
even the skies of his eyes which closed
as he rode the summer light home.
They said his beauty was like a sigh.
They said he was young as dawn,
hair soft as song and the color
of corn, his voice sweet as the angels.
But Vincenzo only trusted the beauty
of sound, notes in perfect order,
without the adornment of words.
Here we saw him, a year past thirty,
ravaged by the loss of his vital waters.
His hair was lank, skin already chalk,
salt crusting the deeply dimpled chin
and each breath an aria of agony.
We saw his melancholy was full darkness,
not sunset as they liked to say.
But at first he told stories of lovers
on Lake Como, whispering names
as sleep came on. Giuditta, Turina, Clelia.
He spoke of summer dusks drifting
alone in his boat, hearing women
from the mills croon from a ferry's bow.
Their love songs tangled like weeds
in his memory while the shore and hills
darkened together into night.
Near the end Vincenzo was too worn
to toss and turn. He lay all day in a sheet
of blood as the doctor cupped him
and wept. We carried on the usual
business of fall while at the cottage door
his friend from the city whispered
to the lintel that it was the end
of music and sank to his knees in mud.
Wind like a mourning chorus
rose in place of the missing stars.