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Poetry and Medicine
August 1, 2001

The Light of the Red Cross Cookie Room

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2001;286(5):508. doi:10.1001/jama.286.5.508

At the counter for cola and cookies
too many lights drew darkness down,
blinded me and knocked me right over.
Where were you? the nurse asked,
one of three bending over me.
They must know something
about how I hid behind the light.
They wrapped my head in a damp rag,
elevated my feet, trussed my arm
with a blood-pressure cuff,
covered me with two wool afghans
crocheted by the blind ladies.
The cola volunteer pulled up a chair.
He was from Nevada, a missionary,
whose name tag read "Elder."
His smooth face said he couldn't tell me
anything about deity. When he asked if I knew
his church, my mouth opened
but my thoughts and words hung apart
like odd socks on a clothesline.
The elder saw a sheep under those afghans
so he poured me another cup of RC Cola
and handed me a fist full of Oreos.
Beside the quiet rock of his listening
the cola and cookies became new blood.
I gave up my crown of rags, left the elder behind
with his own brand of light,
took up my suede pumps and walked.