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Poetry and Medicine
April 11, 2007

Umbrella Burlesque

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2007;297(14):1524. doi:10.1001/jama.297.14.1524

In the far corner of my front closet
a half-dozen umbrellas huddle
like performance-weary refugees
of an old-time variety show.
The inner skeleton of one is so rusted
it will no longer open.
Forever shut up, its bright nylon fabric
and fancy wooden handle
belie its enduring stillness.
At its side, another opens easily
but stays that way only for a moment,
quickly collapsing in on itself
like a large black bird hastily depluming.
Another, bought on the street for a dollar
during a summer shower,
ejects its square metallic button when pressed
on the handle, sending it with agitated aplomb
across my cloud-darkened living room,
revealing a pent-up inner spring.
Yet another opens to expose
spokes that precariously poke
through its taut outer membrane.
Torn by a forgotten wind,
its recoiled fabric offers only fractional shelter.
I am running late, so choose the least
damaged among them,
inadvertently protecting the most washed up
from being lost later that day.