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Poetry and Medicine
May 16, 2007

The Annual Physical

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;297(19):2056. doi:10.1001/jama.297.19.2056

Instructions are given.
Deep breath, count to three,
then blow into the tube
for as long as you can.
My lungs empty out and the needle on the gauge
nudges its way eastward,
toward good health I hope.
My heart has already been given the thumbs up.
An octopus with suction-cup feet
and a meter for a head said so.
And my blood pressure is normal
according to a rubber hose
squeezed tight around my arm.
A hammer to my knees
enlightened the doctor on my reflexes.
Soon, my blood will get to tell its tale,
likewise my urine.
But, for now, it's my breathing
that's being asked to speak for me
and, despite a white face
and a dizzy head,
it's convinced I’ll make it
through another year.
When I was younger,
there was no such creature
as an annual physical.
Or, at least, my body parts
didn't need to be told
how good they were.
And neither did the years
for that matter.