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Poetry and Medicine
August 17, 2005

I Saw the Saw I Said I Saw

JAMA. 2005;294(7):776. doi:10.1001/jama.294.7.776

They said I could not have heard their music
in the surgical suite as they sawed near
my spinal cord. I said I’d heard it: Bach’s
Concerto in A Minor for Four Keyboards.
My hero Helmut Schmidt was performing. It
was all pleasure and no pain.
I said I saw them working. They said my eyes
were covered. I said I saw the pinks, the reds.
I saw a strong mother—the gray dura mater
defending my precious neck. I saw the devilish
extruded fragment, I saw the disk. I heard
the hammer pound the pins into the plate.
I saw the saw I said I saw. Everything was
mellifluous. The air was sweet like honey-
mash. The smell brought back the flowers
of Arcadia’s wild almond groves. My brain
was sparking in fear and flight. Had they
tapped my amygdala? Had I?

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