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Poetry and Medicine
May 26, 2010

I fell and my face went on the sea

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to

JAMA. 2010;303(20):2011. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.427

This is how he starts
Mr Slacks-stained-with-neglect,
dull, red stocking cap
teetering on wintered head. His socks
shockingly clean.
He was raised in the children's
home. His mother died in the state hospital.
I don't know why she was there. Father
forgotten by his sins. Brother Ralph in
Greece and Charly in Tucson.
Tommy died.
I spent 33 years in the mushroom house. I went
through a machine that broke seven ribs
and put a hole in my left arm. Right here.
Slow as his speech, as lead-pipe
bends, as the realization that
we are in this together
his right hand points to his left forearm.
He escaped that machine.
I’m trembling inside.
I am too. A flashlight shining
across his ocean is all I can offer.

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