Bone Loss

Whisper me

into the chambers

of bone,

honeycomb of marrow,

talisman

bleached,

rib      of      grey      dove,

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Back Pain

Back Pain

A 77-year-old woman presents with back pain.
No trauma. No radiation. No red flags.
ROS* otherwise surprisingly negative.
Her exam is unremarkable, actually pretty darn good.
FROM, negative SLR, full distal strength, sensation and DTRs.*
After the usual cautions I reassure her,
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A Short Explanation of Everything

A Short Explanation of Everything

Our patient says she’s burning up, burning up.
We sponge her off. This student is learning how blood boils,
how shaking chills and drenching sweats punctuate fever,
how water moves in and out of cells
along concentration gradients, how nerves talk,
how some circuits turn all

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On the Grounds of a Former State Mental Hospital

On the Grounds of a Former State Mental Hospital

Through wounds in whitewash, brick edges crumble
To red dust. Weeds pierce the interstices of paths slowly
Giving themselves up to trackless overgrowth
Are all shapes broken that differ from expected forms
Or is this slant just as proper to a cupola as symmetry?
Not if

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Whatever Else

Whatever Else

Of course, I wanted to save you
from all this–from machines
and plastic tubes, from the shooters
with their dyes, from the guys
who scan your organs
for the truth, from waits in cold rooms
whose lights illuminate your life
and make

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Sounds

Sounds

Sound comes crawling through, leaping
from its suitcase of slightly sweaty skin
across to the diaphragm, a divide keeping
him from me, now breached, the world now open
crawling up a well-used black rubber tunnel
to my ears, calling to me, waiting to begin

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Mortality and Morbidity Conference

Mortality and Morbidity Conference

I imagined something Victorian.
Perhaps I imagined a lecture hall filled with side-whiskered,
Sherlockian doctors, arguing case histories
like gentlemen playing chess with death–
or perhaps I imagined priests,
performing absolution at the bier.

I did not have to imagine the grey

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Last Day

Last Day

It’s my job to empty a plastic bag
filled with meds both past and present
and read out loud the labels of those we stopped,
and explain why, and while we’re on why
why he needs oxygen at night, and the rescue inhaler.
Between pills it’s

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Training During the Plague

Training During the Plague

If you had told me thirty years ago,
when I took call on endless sleepless nights
on incandescent AIDS wards full of fear
on which I tried to do the healing work
of drawing blood and packing leaking wounds
and viewing films of microbes

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Holiday Concert

Holiday Concert

The door opens, we pause again.
Voices singing in the lobby drown out
her parents and the specialists alike.
I think they added bells this year,
the cheerful carols carefully chosen
to celebrate the season, not a faith.
A guitar picks up a riff,

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First Saturday Night at the Nursing Home

I stare at my chicken patty,
the limp lettuce, pale tomato
sliver, open the small
mayonnaise packet, even though
I don’t eat mayonnaise.
I pour my milk, set the carton
on the table, slide aside
the red Jell-O. If I don’t look
up, I

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Schrödinger’s Patient

In a box she waits,
Neither dead nor alive,
Until observed.
In three months,
The box opens.
Tested, probed, scanned,
She learns the cancer has recurred,
In which case she is dead.
Or it has not returned,
In which case she

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