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Poetry and Medicine
March 26, 2014

A Narrow Escape

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics, State University of New York at Stony Brook
JAMA. 2014;311(12):1254. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.284774

Sleep paralysis: In Newfoundland folklore, an old hag crushes the chest of her victim.

The old hag enters my room,
wearing a threadbare overcoat
and woolen cap. Shocked from sleep,
I struggle to sit, but my bones
are flattened lead tubes, my lips
stitched and drawn tight. The leg
that touches my wife’s back, numb.

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