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Poetry and Medicine
January 28, 2004


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(4):405. doi:10.1001/jama.291.4.405

I am swimming across a large pool of brine
clawing my way through dense algae
and just at the other end several adults are cheering
me on. You can make it, they say. One little girl
watches me. She is five, wearing
a yellow tulle dress and yellow ballerina slippers.
She says nothing. She never speaks no matter
how many times I swim towards her.
I tire more easily now. I have been doing this
over fifteen years and I've watched them, hundreds
of them, when I fail and even when I succeed,
it has become less and less solace for the next effort.
It is like this being an oncologist, and each time
I enter the brine I try to be buoyant. I try
to concentrate on the other side, but the light
glares blindingly off that little girl in yellow.

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