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Poetry and Medicine |

Reading Joyce in the Delivery Room

Shane Neilson, MD
JAMA. 2009;301(15):1514. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.380.
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Extract

I think of an Irish bog, and Stephen Dedalus awake.
She is in pain, with bloody show, it has been hours
of endless and the alarm is slowing to its most dangerous.
The nurses are like damp muses left out in the rain,
and I have no name, and no choice, the waters are irretrievable.
I have already started to love, I think of Joyce's history of love,
and when the baby comes, there is a grand stretch of my heart,
a quiet street with clipped hedges, a place of echo,
an old neighborhood. One name comes to me: Molly,
yes, it must be Molly, the baby will be on the breast
and ravenous in its bassinet, it will be my turn
to step into the small stream that rounds the house,
this first day in the life. My wife pants and holds,
turns according to the muses; the doctor wears plastic gloves
and the baby will be born, awake or sleeping deep,
and I will be in the doorway with all I have of wait.

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