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Poetry and Medicine
December 1, 2015


Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics, State University of New York, Stonybrook
JAMA. 2015;314(21):2309. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.8427

Sixteen blocks to the hospital from home
at 47th and Pine, sidewalks damp,
lighting dim—I imagine trekking a high pass
in Bhutan. Yaks clang. Prayer flags flutter
in the chill between rocks. No Chevy Impala
on concrete blocks near the intersection
of 44th and Spruce. No stench of dog turds
from a storm drain. I imagine Sarawak,
the rivers, their tributaries of doubt. Dawn frost
replaced by humid heat. A trick that involves
an imperceptible effort—my mind blocks
the reality of row houses, muffler shops,
and work. One voiceover breaks up, another
announces the arrival of 34th Street,
border of a broad savanna where wolves
of compassion roam. At 6 am I enter their lair
and push my geographies into a drawer
beneath my skull, among cabinets containing
stacks of patterns, procedures, and my precious
thimblefuls of love. In this pack I’m an adopted son.