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Poetry and Medicine
December 26, 2012

Refractory

Author Affiliations
 

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

Author Affiliation: Ross, California (beckyfoust@hotmail.com).

JAMA. 2012;308(24):2547. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.13648

They call it being in shock, this state:
seeing and hearing and breathing but
unable to twitch even an eyelid
at a pinprick, or the sound of his master's voice.
But gasping is not breathing. Snorting
is not breathing. Moaning is not breathing.
Gurgling is not breathing. Agonal breath
before apnea and death, the vet said;
the lungs still will bellow after the heart
has ceased to beat. I’d heard it before—
I had less than ten seconds to okay
the CPR that, with its rubber hose,
would be hard-to-see, not an easy pass
—my mother died more than once like this.

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