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Poetry and Medicine
June 2, 1999

The Rabbit's Tumor

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;281(21):1970D. doi:10.1001/jama.281.21.1970

George turned eight Easter and lump-chested.
The vet sliced off one hard grape and left
little sprouting nobs too numerous for knives.
He laid odds at ninety-five percent and hawked
a forty-dollar test to type the tumor.
We chose ignorance, chose to leave George's doom
unnamed and the children five percent of hope.
Only humans have to know death's date of birth,
the bullet's very number. Rodents simply drop.
So our old pet rests his stitches in the pen, nibbling
pears while the boys watch what a rabbit does until it dies.
My father ended just as sweet, favoring Italian ice to fruit
his tumor staged down to the hour hunger stopped.
Then we watched his glucose drip.
One day my sons must turn from my bed too,
blink and wonder how to weigh each ragged breath.
They'll take what they want of father falling off the bone
of memory, summon grace they practiced by the hutch,
then, famished, flee downstairs to lunch.

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