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Poetry and Medicine
October 14, 1998

A Starry Night in Wyoming Against the Sky an Incongruous Shepherd

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;280(14):1210P. doi:10.1001/jama.280.14.1210

If you never knew Joe, who was Greek,
He was born and raised in Wyoming.
He could have been a raving patriarch.
Instead, he was quiet.
He had little education, but he knew things, more than most.
He could pass as a Spaniard, an Oriental, an Arab, an Eskimo.
He had exquisite natural manners.
He worked with his hands. He was a husband and father.
He was a merchant, setting up, buying and selling,
But preferring an exchange.
He was a tough customer. He would trick you if you were dishonest.
You could count on him. That was his magic.
He brought the right tools but didn't boast about it.
He quickened the young and respected the old.
He succeeded. He failed. It didn't matter.
In the hospital he was dying of cancer. He called out—
For a staff.
The doctors had never heard of anything like this.
We scoured the building and rescued a wooden broom hiding among the plastic.
Somehow he drew strength from it.
He was buried on a hilltop, overlooking the valley he knew
On the unknown side.
Words don't carry out there.
His eyes were more innocent than you think,
And kind.

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