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Poetry and Medicine
September 5, 2012


Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to

Author Affiliation: Ballard Pediatric Clinic, Seattle, Washington (

JAMA. 2012;308(9):845. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.5998

How will it be, when my time comes
to decide to leave this world?
I do not know—but I remember sitting
in the sifted light of dawn with men,
their organs failed beyond recourse or repair.
I watched their fear recede
with every passing hour. I smelled
disintegration on their breaths, observed how,
even at the end, the wisdom of their bodies
sent out a comforter to their restless brains.
It was always the room at the end
off the corridor. I sat, holding
a slowly cooling hand
until shift-change. That was all.

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