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Coulehan, Jack

Medicine and the Arts

“Swimming” was originally published in the January 25, 1995, issue of JAMA.

Lisa Dittrich, deputy editor of Academic Medicine, is the editor of “Medicine and the Arts.” Unsolicited submissions are welcome.

I suppose she'll always be diving

into the Schuylkill River,

surviving, until I get there.

She'll be showing at six months

the sweet rise of a dance

and, for all I know, her child

will cry out for justice—

if not for love—when I arrive.

My head will always be

drifting in thought, a chill

of moisture in my cheeks,

as I listen to her gut.

I suppose she'll be waking

to the roaring of the sun

and falling asleep again,

and the beds will forever

be full and for all I know

I'll always be sending her

off to the psych house,

after phoning the whole city

to toss me a yes.

I suppose the last I'll see

of her smile is that half-hearted pass

at the ambulance cop—

And, of course, her brain

will always begin

to bleed—as she's swimming out.

© 2001 Association of American Medical Colleges