[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Citations 0
Poetry and Medicine
April 13, 2011


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2011;305(14):1392. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.350

This guy mostly grows corn, and his hands tell me he's really doing it.
Wiry, thin, country strong. But his eyes are yellow now, like his crop.
Pretty thin lying down.
CT scan shows the bump, the fuzz, and the pinch.
Tough row, but maybe we can. Maybe we can.
I talk about the operation, and the wife gets a bead on the farmer pretty quick.
Forty-five years tells her what he sees, looking at his feet.
The scaphoid field shows a lifetime of hoists, lifts, pushing,
and a few months of drinking coffee without the eggs and toast.
He's prepped. Time out. I cut. We're off.
Pancreas grasps superior mesenterics like a hand on a hammer.
We try to pry stingy fingers from tubes, blood rich and soft as cornsilk.
We are pushing for that sweet spot that tells us we are done but for the cleaning up.
This time, the hammer strikes back. No Whipple. Yellow planes grow clawed and puckery, just exactly
Where soft and wet would do.
And the resident, first all fingers and fire, now detumescent.
Not today, Pal. Close him up.
Today is my day. Today I write the bitter coda, played twice—
Once for son and wife, then again for the farmer.
The farmer gets the news, the gash, and the six out of ten scale.
He gets it—he gets what I say and gets what I mean.
His thanks, as real as dirt, are chipped from courtesy lived sixty-seven years.
I get to know the man who mostly grew corn.
Whenever we shake hands, mine milk and his like barnboard, we are dear to one another.
The exchange fair and bitter:
The offering of my hands, shy of true, for a shard of redemption.