Monday, 7 July 2008

JAMA poetry

I have to give credit (and a plug) to the New York Times (NYT) for initiating this blog post. A few days ago I read an article in the NYT (which may I add is one of my favourite publications right now) which brought my attention to the Journal of the American Medical Association’s poetry publications written by patients, researchers and doctors. While perusing the JAMA, the name it is commonly referred to in medical research circles, I realised that the journal does not limit itself to just scientific publications and poetry, it also publishes book and media reviews (of medical relevance) and short literary pieces describing experiences of doctors (in “a piece of my mind”), among other things. In addition, the cover of the journal (journals have covers?....just kidding) features beautiful artworks of prominent and less prominent artists. I guess this is one of pitfalls of having literature that is easily accessible on-line - we never get in touch with the real thing. Anyway, although JAMA is not related to my field of research, i know that I will appreciate this medical journal for being a bit different to most journals I read.
Below I have posted two profound poems from the “poetry and medicine” section of JAMA.

The Suit
When the time comes to donate your clothes
i will leave the gray check suit in your closet for the foreseeable future.
I'm not so foolish to think that you're coming back and will need it again
rather, i want some tangible item other than pictures documents and death certificates glossy flat and thin.
With your suit i am able to
put my hand into its sleeve
roll my arm in the pant leg
puff out the jacket and feel your silken space.
There's something so substantial in its emptiness
that i need now after five months
when the memories are still strong
but your reality is slowly eroding.

- Frank DeCicco MD

Everything is nervous here, vibrating
to the hum of air conditioning.
Outside, the palms are never still.
Inside, palms sweat in high anxiety.
Even the indifferent chameleon
sunning on the hot veranda
blows his red sac as a warning.
On the Gulf a tropical depression
brews a hurricane. Depression
in this place is deeper still,
this space where hopes die,
wishes fail, silent waiting ends
as the next white-coated person
speaks of trying everything.
And the coldness that comes then
makes the heat of anger welcome,
like the coming storm.

- Robert L Jones

(1) The NYT:
(2) DeCicco F (2008) The Suit. The Journal of the American Medical Association 229(12): 1404
(3) Jones RL (2008) Thermostat. The Journal of the American Medical Association 299(16): 1878
(4) Cover image (2006) The Journal of the American Medical Association 295(9): cover. This cover features a painting by Henri Matisse (1869–1954), La méditation: après le bain (the Meditation: After the Bath), 1920, French. Oil on canvas.

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