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Poetry and Medicine
February 10, 2010

Visit to Havenwyck Hospital

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2010;303(6):487. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.2020

Sunday at three
my wife, youngest son and I sit in a booth
in the cafeteria.
Our middle son stays in the car
and studies global affairs.
He knows it's easier, this distance.
Our oldest son spots us and walks over.
He wears his black cap with white swoosh
as if checked off some list.
Our youngest climbs on top of the seat.
“Calm down,” I say.
“This place needs some fun!” he shouts.
I give him a yellow legal pad.
He draws a picture for each of us
tearing pages as he pulls them free.
His brother smiles; braces
have made his teeth straight and beautiful.
He gets two cups of diet Sprite
and gives one to his brother.
“I hate this stupid place,” he says,
moving his cup in circles, breaking
off bits of Styrofoam. His hands shake
from new medication.
A Chinese couple visits their son
in another booth. Three times
the father leaves the table and walks
to a window, the gray sky, the bare trees.
Our youngest son shreds his cup
and spills the pieces on the floor.
I help him pick them up.
Saying good-bye my wife holds out her arms.
Our son bends to receive her.
I offer my hand and he shakes half of it.
“Shake it like you mean it,” I say
the wrong thing again and he lets go.
Walking down the long hall
our youngest son buries his face in his coat
as his mother guides him to our car.

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