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Poetry and Medicine
April 27, 2011


Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2011;305(16):1633. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.344

Pronouncing a patient's death is a
service provided by the housestaff on call.

                              Resident handbook

It is nine o’clock; visitation hours
are now over, a lifeless monotone
announces overhead. The halls are left
to a janitor who gossips on the phone
while tossing get-well cards and wilted flowers—
tokens for the deceased and the bereft.
Tonight is even busier than most.
I pass the chapel as the lights turn off
and look inside, only to catch my breath—
a shadow wards off spirits with a cough
and turns to look at me like I’m a ghost,
a white coat hurrying from death to death.

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