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Poetry and Medicine
October 3, 2017

A Terrible Beauty

Author Affiliations
  • 1Newton, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2017;318(13):1286. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.2930


for David Christopher Fisher, MD

Within my body there is light, bright as solar flares,
intense with what was once a first defense,
a slightly clouded flowing stream now gone awry,
filled with brilliant, clustered, clotted,
wild knotted flaming shapes blazing with irradiated sugar—
the deepest parts innermost in me revealed, defined.
It is an autopsy of light
in this my living body still—
a play of sight such as auroras never seen,
its fearsome beauty eloquent as candles blessed
and burning down, which now define my life
but may yet change their course
and let the stream return again
to flowing slightly clouded cool and free.

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