fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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Poems

Often Described As

the most terrible pain known to man,
trigeminal neuralgia
ricochets around my face, pulsing
electric-shocks. My doctor advises

cutting the nerve in my cheek, the only hope
of stopping the torture. He mentions
some patients consider
suicide. My husband has just revealed

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Harvest

In early morning appointments,
the doctor’s coat reeks of cigarettes
as he moves closer,
says “Scoot down,”
inserts the probe.

They want me to want my eggs
in case the treatment takes them—
to hold fast to the dream of a child
with my dimples and dark eyes.

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The Sturgeon

Kind eyes, and a fragile body like a reed
Barely just a presence on the room, as if almost fading
Already into the twilight

Under gentle, careful hands
His body unveils its story with its familiar tells.
The slender wrists, childlike, beneath pitted skin.
Deeply scooped recess above collarbones.
A subtle, solid wedge of liver,
Looming ominously below ribcage.

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Enough

Her idea of a date is splitting
a six-pack with her husband
Friday nights while milking the cows,
still weary from her day job.
Swollen udders demand attention
twice daily regardless
of her daughter’s ball games,
her mother’s terminal cancer.

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The Bite

In the springtime, a zombie showed up,
breaking down our door and biting me.

Friends and neighbors asked questions,
not daring to come near,

leaving flowers, candles, baked goods
on our crooked stoop.

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Prognosis

Small birds teeter
on the wires by the feedstore.

Crows scatter broken seedpods
beneath the streetlight.

Flowering weeds crowd the dusty sidewalk,
sickly yellow or red as blood.

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Brain Scan

I slide into the MRI machine.
Sleds slide downhill, propelled by their own weight;
my movement’s horizontal, made through means

outside of my control: a man in green
scrubs bops a button, turning me to freight
that’s fed into the MRI machine.

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Song of the Body

You wake up in pain, again.
That thoracic disc twisting in on itself
like a corkscrew unable
to spiral back out of the pulp.

It’s work make-believing
your way through the long week,
bearing someone else’s dreams
on your employed shoulders.

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And What Is Beautiful

if not a healing wound?
toes missing, trans-metatarsal amputation,
remaining tissue puckering deep pink:
raw beauty in disfigurement.

He shows me pictures on his cell phone,
the toes felt doused with molten metal.
Before debridement: brown-black,
the foot decaying like a leaf in winter.

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