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Poetry and Medicine
September 9, 1998

The Risk of Having Children

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;280(10):864Q. doi:10.1001/jama.280.10.864

A nurse works there all night,
but I'm up now, hours before dawn,
away from our grandchild, who cries
and tries to turn. Deer on the lawn
graze quiety. Soon, they'll be gone
across the meadow, as if they might
have been only shadows I believed
were deer. At five, another nurse
will come, tuck in the sheet
and stare, and take her pulse.
Our daughter-in-law will stir,
rise to her elbows to see,
lie back and try to sleep.
Our son is home, drained from his watch,
near the phone, falling asleep,
I hope. If only the pain would stop
when she's awake, the cancer stop,
the clocks jump forward
to news some smocked researcher
shouts on the Internet.
Near my elbow, my computer
waits, the blue screen ready,
the cursor blinking, steady
as monitors in intensive care.
At dawn, I start the coffee,
time for my watch at the hospital.
Sipping, I glance out at the lawn,
red light steady on the fresh-brewed pot.
My wife wakes, drawn by the hot aroma,
the hope and coffee of another dawn.

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