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Poetry and Medicine
January 27, 2010


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2010;303(4):308. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1872

I have noticed on the sugar maple
outside the kitchen window there is
always a leaf or two,
brown, decaying
clinging to the branch
throughout the killing winter.
During snow storms I watch and wonder
why the leaf doesn't fall.
It is paper thin and wrinkled,
its creases visible to me
even twenty feet away
through the double-paned glass
that holds back the howling
wind, the icy flakes of snow.
My father sits in his chair,
mouth agape, his teeth
many years gone.
I remember the ocean depth
of his language, now pulled far out to sea
leaving a soft shore of sandy plaque
and rutted lesions. Still, he sometimes watches
with me, gazing out the picture window
onto the endless sea of white snow
mouth open, as if astonished
at that one brown leaf
still, motionless,
pinioned to the maple's branch
all winter long.

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