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Poetry and Medicine
March 16, 2011


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2011;305(11):1067. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.178

It's meant to cinch an upper segment
of your tubing—to clinch your fate
in your favor, like a binding clause
declaring you are not to be considered
the cause of your own trouble. Others
are involved—you stumble among them
after all. The procedure's conducted
under so-called sterile conditions. You wish
this to be true. You find
the glare of the operating theater lights
a comfort—the surgeon, who swears
he himself will do most of the work,
will see so well in this photon wash.
The bright pink-white lining suspended
in its connective sheath of sensitive
plexus will surrender its protective
purpose to the shining knife—
he will carve a definitive red
comma in the sentence of your life.
What's next, you wager, is best
described as remaining uncertain. Yet,
chances are you’ll be held together
better as new strong stitching tethers
the crucial bend in that inner river
through the heartland of your vigor, right
where it's meant to be, below the dome
of diaphragm. It's a crude valve, primitive
flow regulator, fashioned from a fold
of you. You’ll itch with morphine, then
be sore at home. Soon, you’ll see—
your heart will never burn! That's what
they tell you, and you believe.