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Poetry and Medicine
June 9, 2004

Oncologist Lost

JAMA. 2004;291(22):2680. doi:10.1001/jama.291.22.2680

The doctor's shoulder dips unconsciously,
hand sliding over the cage of ribs where
the aging cardinal erratically clicks, its
tune trailing off like end notes in "Für Elise."
She is lost again, having "lost" a patient
she was hauling through deep snow
like some undersized St Bernard.
She leans against the wall and casts
a taller shadow, shadowed herself by
sorrow that looms behind her like the memory
of the Savior she's supposed to be.
Yet she will herself be saved and led back
to the fireside by those still left to lose:
the Saving Remnant who beseech her
in a silence which she hears as plainsong.
She will come Home, past cemeteries
and broken stones. In a dream
she will find (finally) the Lost One,
gliding behind a singing waterfall
to discover a cave of stars.
The physician will walk again
waxed corridors in her hospital
white, crisp as a reborn hyacinth,
standing in those shoes of snow.

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