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The Weight of the Soul

Dr. MacDougall measured the weight
of a human soul by placing a man
on a sensitive scale just before death
and weighing him a second time after.

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Our Hands

Braid a child’s hair in precise beaded rows

And shave a scalp just enough to access
Skin flap, skull, brain, tumor

Fold over a learner’s fingers to guide a needle
This angle here with this much pressure
Slide together into a hidden space

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Dying Is Ugly

Bang my shins, my temple on the gritty wall
Of Charlie’s deathbed
Where we do not wrest the truth
But beg him Let us change the (piss-stenched) sheets.
He will not go for tests, insists, denial overarching

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Continent

          Contact: from the Latin for touch.
          Isolate: from the Latin for island.

Because your breath had touched mine,
I was obliged to metamorphose
into a separate land mass,
to wear a collar of brine
like a heavy gurgling yoke

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Microcalcifications

A cluster, I say,
so small – see? I can cover it
with the tip of my finger. Tiny little
calcifications. I show
you the mammogram.

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Educating a Surgeon

My grandmother’s bed bounced high
But I lost the pillow in my hands
Four stitches in the small town
green tiled emergency room
where peering intently into the mirrored light
I was mad because I couldn’t see

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This Is How You Cope With Cancer

Bleach your hair,

get drunk on champagne,

pretend the left and right halves of your face are the exact same,

ignore and deny it, laugh loudly–too loudly,

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Flashback

I notice the name on the waiting room
tab; it’s not a remarkable name,
but one I remember
from elementary school

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Things My Wife Left in the ICU

A pacemaker and defibrillator

Sheets pressed hard with suffering

Seven fingers and one arm, gangrenous dead

Unknown liters of blood

Failed kidneys

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Decision

B546 wants to die
eight years after they saved her.
Cervical-cord injuries are cruel.
For Maria it was a gunshot,
but it could have been a car wreck, a fall,
or a drunken misstep off a roof.
The reasons seemed to matter; now they don’t.
Thirty-two, alone, paralyzed, on a vent,
she mouths “no” to the antibiotics, the heart meds.
“I want to die,” she shouts

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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,
prescribe activity, no meds and the tincture of time.
She is fine with that, appreciative and pleasant.
Then she says, “Should I

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