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Poetry and Medicine
September 11, 2018


Author Affiliations
  • 1Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, New York, New York
JAMA. 2018;320(10):1040. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.5620

for Alexander P.

Some may break down and cry

Others may appear stoic or blank.

These reactions are not unusual.

—How to Provide HIV Test Results (NYC Health)

When you could no longer bear
the fever’s daily whims, panic
risen sharply with those ulcers
in your mouth—a creamy, crescent ring;
your muscles suddenly sore, your face, mottled
with droplets of sweat—you would rush
to the Emergency wing and watch
in disbelief, the steady climb
of the testing stick, a red
duet in wondrous stripes, confirming
the diagnosis you had hoped to hide, feeling
the weight of the viral load, like
an ocean sloshing in your chest, tears
parting screams escaping the slit
of your lips, then you—keeping

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