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Poetry and Medicine
July 1, 2009

Reprieve

Author Affiliations
 

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

JAMA. 2009;302(1):12. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.830

Morning bells echoing and
twisting through narrow streets,
the moment under thick down
when I was anywhere, at home,
the cottage, my grandparents',
but there was the dresser in the
wrong place, a Dürer lithograph, and
something more than misplaced or forgotten
and not a dream,
the knot under my skin,
my wet shirt, my head,
it all came back,
his starched white words, some
selfish thing in my marrow, misunderstood,
or perhaps just hungry,
and demise at twenty-two
seemed absurd as I took my leave
in quiet secret ways, contrite, banished,
partitioned off a little more each day,
though I seethed watching
things not yet felt or thought or done,
distant journeys, reckless passion,
your world, your world
through disconnected curtains swinging
awkwardly along, thickening, such
beauty beyond the shifting cloth,
then the day came when I returned to
that sterile room, fearful place of my sentence to
hear what an unusual thing it had been, uncommon
answer of my bony depth to some fleeting assault,
some nothing, trivial in the end,
and I remember as I pedaled along
Rheinward rolling fields, a sudden upward
flourish from the vines, sparrows,
just sparrows, and as they swooped and dived I
felt myself a part of it, and thought how
strange it was to fly among them, again.

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