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Poetry and Medicine
February 24, 1999

heart doctor father

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;281(8):684E. doi:10.1001/jama.281.8.684

Ron speaks softly about
Paul stepping up to
take one for the team
germ cell hard ball
to the sternum, deadly exception
to prove the rule that
most chest pain in young men is
reflux or intercostal tension
who listened quietly for
25 years to bruits over arteries
that earned yellow stripes
with fat and tobacco, now
hears his own heart click,
split, snap as the surgeon
describes stripping tumor
off innocent pericardium
who just a week before
heard Paul's marriage and
law school plans but
now they discuss
Indiana chemo wizards
harvesting sperm before
sterilizing shots of
platinum, hair loss and
maybe die in raw
words that echo off
late night stark light
kitchen tile
who always chirped "karma"
when bad things happened but is
reduced to whispers and
knocked to his knees by
this very bad thing his
emotions scattered
like shards of the fractured
illusion that parents will
always be able to
protect their children and
physician-parents protect them
even better
who finds in the rubble
his estranged Catholic
grade school God, pushing up
through layers of rational rejection
and years of agnostic distance
not friends again exactly, but
talking, sharing stories of
blameless suffering sons

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