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Poetry and Medicine
October 12, 2005

To Mnemosyne

JAMA. 2005;294(14):1737. doi:10.1001/jama.294.14.1737

Calliope, your poetry
Seems now of little use
Since Algorithm
Took the chair
As Medicine’s main Muse.
As for your sister Clio’s book
The past is hist’ry. . . Listen! Look!
The world of technologic sense
Speaks only in the present tense.
Melpomene, bad news for you
And for your sister, Thalia, too.
No place for drama, mood, or plot
In brains programmed in One and Aught.
Erato, put away your lyre
Your boundless love cannot inspire
The cockles of a turgid mind
Where three plus five are never nine.
Terpsichore, there’s little chance
That anyone cares when you dance.
A waste of time and energy
Unless, of course, it’s therapy.
Euterpe’s music may take root
In elevators, but her flute
Will no doubt be
A yard-sale curiosity.
Urania, your solar rings
Are rusted iron and carbon things.
No longer do your lights turn on
A dozing mesencephalon.
By golly, Polyhymnia,
A technologic search
Has failed to show
An algorithm
Suitable for church.
Mnemosyne, don’t give up yet.
The day will come when mortals get
Your message of humanity.
Then medicine will ask from you
What Algorithms cannot do.
And on that day we’ll surely need
Your daughters, once again, to lead.