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Poetry and Medicine
July 19, 2000


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2000;284(3):280. doi:10.1001/jama.284.3.280

She first heard its onset
in the sudden, staccato
rhythm of her speech,
in the gradual diminishing
of brilliant memory
from chord to arpeggio.
Though largely confined
to the minimalist composition
of her nursing home room,
she still insists that the aide
help her daily with a black gown
and wrap her hair in a bun.
Positioned on her bench
with the straight-backed posture
she assumed as a concert pianist,
she sits at her only window
and watches the diminuendo of light
from afternoon to evening,
evening to dusk and dusk
to the endlessly repeated
étude of the night,
each of her long,
slender fingers
swaying like the winding down
needle of a metronome.