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Poetry and Medicine
August 12, 1998

After the Madness of Saigon

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor

JAMA. 1998;280(6):492L. doi:10.1001/jama.280.6.492

Today I'm sneezes and sniffles, turn my head and cough.
Dogs slink and drop their ears and whine when I jog by.
They've seen that look on cave men flinging firebrands
from the rocks. Pockets turned inside out say to the world
I'm broke, no patience with myself, so watch it.
I may kneel down and take your paper from the street, flip it
closer to your door. If there's a nail, I'll take it, too,
the worst of broken glass some schoolboy tossed
to hear the bottle burst behind his pickup roaring by
at midnight. I'll turn and fill somebody's dumpster
with trash and roadkill by the curb, and crushed
magnolia blooms from last night's storm.
Finding another old vet at my door, I'll fling
the screen door wide and loose the puma for her daily prowl.
That sad old friend and I will rock on the porch
with dozens of others, telling dumb jokes and screaming,
sipping coffee, scarfing on pizza and beer. Stuffed,
we'll cruise the neighborhood, helping up bums from doorways,
patching the widows' roofs, as if healing the deaf
and crippled, paying all people's debts.

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