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Poetry and Medicine
March 27, 2018

Total Eclipse

Author Affiliations
  • 1Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, New York, New York
JAMA. 2018;319(12):1282. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.14331

We make a living out of cancer
killing—seeking roots anchored
underneath the mutilated rungs
of genes. Every moment lost
to distractions is gain for meta-
stasis; so, she declines to attend
the eclipse viewing—untouched the sun
chips we have gathered in a bowl, the moon
cakes arranged in packets of eight.
And as the sky bruises into a pale
indigo, shifts into the cusp of a silky
darkness—a narrowed ring of light
behind a coin silhouette in the sky,
tightening lunar shadows swollen
into a temporary night—her gaze grows
fiercer under the eye of a microscope,
breaths braiding thicker into heaves—unknown
to us how this shadow afternoon reminds
her of her brother’s passing many years ago;
underneath an Alabama sun, aged three and a half,
helpless as the cancer spread, grew
more of him, his death—another kind
of darkness.

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