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Poetry and Medicine
February 11, 1998

End Stage

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;279(6):428L. doi:10.1001/jama.279.6.428

My brother rises from his easy chair,
staggering as the darkness follows him.
The soles of his feet feel nothing at all
but he has learned how to embrace the air
and sway across the rhythm of his heart.
As his movements loosen, time falls apart
till he finds himself braced against the wall.
His steps have shrunken with his sight and there
is little he can follow beyond the dim
edge of hope that leads him down the hall.
His barefoot shuffling is the sound an old
man makes but he will never get that far.
Now he would settle for the bedroom door
and a slight breeze from the open window
that tells him where he is and nothing more.
He enters a shaft of light and turns gold
for a moment, his skin glowing as though
radiant with warmth. Yet he is always cold,
growing paler as the day wanes, and light
no longer makes a difference. At night
when childhood is the center of his life,
memories and dreams are the only sight
he has. There is something he wants to know,
he says, something important that we are
missing. I listen, knowing he is right.

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