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Poetry and Medicine
October 6, 1999

Why the Dying Need Wills

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;282(13):1210B. doi:10.1001/jama.282.13.1210

Patients, bald as monks,
eyes blazing, ride electric beds.
And bowls of wrinkled flowers
perfume the dreamy rim of heaven
The cancer wing's gone thick
with green plants pumping
air back at their throats.
From the mirrors dangle
messages from missing children.
A nurse says one old salt swam out
from a coma and wrapped his hands
around a metal cross
as if clinging to a buoy.
A lifeguard in a lawyer suit
offers paper and pen,
a rope across the breakers,
pulling the past
toward new hands.
We want to give ourselves
away, piece by piece,
as if we owned everything
that matters.
So spring after spring we water
our sleepy grass and wait
for the children to remember.

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