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Poetry and Medicine
November 5, 2003

Lecturing the Interns

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;290(17):2233. doi:10.1001/jama.290.17.2233

For some patients nothing can be done.
They were born under a bad sign
on the wrong side of town, beneath
a losing moon. Anything you try
with them will fail. Your remedies
will burst like those packets of relief
whose chutes fail to open, and instead
pound the heads of the sufferers below.
These are the ones who were never exposed
to mercy, and have no antibodies to it.
Beneath your skilled intrusions they will
collapse, they will be overwhelmed,
like chickens lifting their beaks in the rain.
These are the patients who will try you
by never getting better. It is not fair,
it is not their fault there is no place
to direct your anger, as there is no way
to practice your care that will not
just harm them further. They are proof
that this life you have chosen
is beyond your intent, as theirs
descends from some election that ignores them:
it is a tossing of bones, the Ouija's declaration
in a language that language cannot explicate.