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Poetry and Medicine
July 10, 2002

Diagnosis of Exclusion

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;288(2):141. doi:10.1001/jama.288.2.141

Born a premie, heroin addicted
to an HIV-positive mother,
her foster mother asks me to please find
out why she has crying spells. Conflicted,
I think, paregoric, unrestricted,
if its withdrawal, ‘til fits are over,
if it's HIV dementia, love her,
hold her, keep her, pray for the afflicted.
Height and weight are fiftieth percentile.
she quiets to voice, gives a social smile.
Perhaps she just has everyday colic:
nothing abnormal, something any child
might have, a purely physiologic
diagnosis of exclusion, and mild.