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Poetry and Medicine
August 14, 2002

26 Piazza di Spagna

JAMA. 2002;288(6):676. doi:10.1001/jama.288.6.676

The Odes of Keats churning in my head,
how could I listen to the concierge
with his map of Rome:
You are here—Too far to walk.
And what to do with a husband's fear
of swerving cabbies, their wild fees in lira?
Six time zones away from home,
it was not his pilgrimage.
Crazed, I insisted we walk toward the postcard
of oleanders, white and red, frothing up wide steps,
to the right the pink house
where Keats took his final tubercular breath.
We asked directions from a pony-tailed American
who thought she knew where we were going,
at a gelato stand, the owner
dipping and pointing.
All the while the insane cyclists varoomed by,
headed in their own directions,
not caring a whit for Keats, his love for Fanny,
or the last street music he'd heard: hawkers and goats.
Farther and farther we roamed
till the vicious schedule of the tour bus
urged us back. Like much in life
and death, we never knew how close we'd come,
left with a lone photo to mark the day:
On the curb a man smiling
by a hip-high Ferrari,
bright as arterial blood.

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