Poetry and Medicine |

Hymn of Skin

Sarah Wells
JAMA. 2010;303(9):818. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.170.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


Touch this one inch of skin and send
a thousand nerve endings to their knees.
Prick it and risk the run of twenty blood vessels.
Sever this layer to enter the dark territory
of the interior—a six-inch scar lets nothing out
that ought to stay in. And how about those
sixty thousand melanocytes per inch that determine
the color of me and when overexposed to UV rays,
can bring the death of me. This one really gets
under my skin—sweat glands in my palms begin
to kick in. Praise, anyway, to the maker
of the excess folds around my knuckles, ankles,
and knees so I can sit cross-legged and curtsy
with no pain, hold a pen without tears between bones,
metacarpals popping out to be tucked back in.
Glory to the lord of fingerprints, heart lines,
head lines, life lines, indents and cavities
fashioned in the womb. How particular your carvings,
how precise your instrument to etch that patterned
Arch, Whorl, or Loop unique in every instance.
Plastic surgeon of the heavens, how I delight
in a furrowed brow, crow's feet, age spots—
wrinkle me up a dozen times to show I lived
hard, good, funny—after all beauty, being what it is,
is only skin deep—may my soul seep through
dry scales of later hands, resting tranquil in my lap.
O omniscient dermatologist, what ingenuity,
past hurts evident in scrapes and scars—
a clumsy stumble down uneven concrete stairs,
knees and ankle raw and dripping; pockmarked cheeks
from teenage zits—all healed, in the end, but not forgotten.
How often we need reminders of where we’ve been.


Sign In to Access Full Content

Don't have Access?

Register and get free email Table of Contents alerts, saved searches, PowerPoint downloads, CME quizzes, and more

Subscribe for full-text access to content from 1998 forward and a host of useful features

Activate your current subscription (AMA members and current subscribers)

Purchase Online Access to this article for 24 hours

First Page Preview

View Large
First page PDF preview




Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Sign In to Access Full Content

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Related Topics