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September 1, 1999

Large Woman, Half

Author Affiliations

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JAMA. 1999;282(9):823. doi:10.1001/jama.282.9.823-JMS0901-8-1


Large woman, half-sitting
wrecked among the creased sheets,
tubes, sharp needles, blue blankets

Her loose white and rain-gray hair
stripes pillows
She has the preoccupied jelly gaze
of a fish

Under the gown, she has been cracked
down her center
And shut tight again.
There is dried blood
traveling the long barbed seam.

Bent to listen,
there are gusts

Newspaper crackling
against the wire fence of suture

New wine bubbling up

A door banging open into an empty room

Heavy trucks on an unfamiliar stretch
of highway

Branches gnashing the tin roof of a shed

Or birds settling in zoo cages at dusk?

I move the stethoscope again
and again

It stamps the warm freckled flesh
Even the fabric murmurs


Well, I am new to this
I cannot fully appreciate your
heart sounds.