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Poetry and Medicine
December 8, 2004

Do No Harm

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(22):2698. doi:10.1001/jama.292.22.2698
A spider in the sink is stunned. The light.My size. Big sucker, brown. The bodybulges. Otherwise, it’s squat. If I waita few minutes without moving, it’ll glideover the dry porcelain, attendingto its needs. Why do these spiders appear?This one must have dropped from the ceilingon a sticky thread. It couldn’t have beenexploring. Spiders don’t, unless. . . lookingfor water? Attracted to a new spot?I don’t think so. Out in the open sink,vulnerable at any momentto flood, this arachnid is as good as dead.What kind of being? There is no wayto understand how it feels. It may eatits own eggs. It hasn’t friends. The sheenof the porcelain means nothing to it.Act without thought. I will turn the tapto the right temperature and pull outmy razor. I could switch off the light and waitfor the spider to leave, or flick it upwith a Kleenex. But I don’t. I letthe torrent loose and turn for a momentto the shower, so I can’t see the spiderstruggling and sliding, as its whole life,for all I know, flashes in front of it.