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Poetry and Medicine
December 10, 2008

Villanelle for a Dying Smoker

Author Affiliations
 

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

JAMA. 2008;300(22):2585. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.698

Your neck pulsed, your nostrils flared,
you couldn't catch your breath;
Every muscle fought for air.
Who wouldn't be scared
with lungs so full of death?
Your neck pulsed, your nostrils flared.
The sound was deadened everywhere
I listened to your chest:
Every muscle fought for air.
Your mouth formed some kind of prayer:
Dear Lord, forgive the cigs and crystal meth.
Your neck pulsed, your nostrils flared.
Why should I or anyone care
for a life so willfully bereft?
Every muscle fought for air.
Your eyes had no more light to spare.
My right hand took your left.
Your neck pulsed, your nostrils flared.
Every muscle fought for air.

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