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Poetry and Medicine
May 3, 2000

Poolside, 1961

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;283(17):2213. doi:10.1001/jama.283.17.2213

There is less than one hour left
and my father does not know.
He lies there in faded light
green trunks, turned belly-up
beneath a livid sunlamp,
smoking down his last cigar
before the time comes
for him to rise and dress.
He loves the sheer arrogance
of such heat, its dragon's
breath across his chest,
and he fills his lungs with it.
Minutes remain but still
he does not know. He thinks
of the long morning spent
riding bridle paths on a bay
gelding, the mid-day nap,
pinochle on a sun-drenched
patio and whiskey as clouds
turned his bright day dark
in the blink of an eye.
He thinks of tomorrow only
as a long drive home.
Seconds remain as he rises
to stretch and blink salt
from his eyes. He does not
yet know. Without the least
thought of time winding down,
he tucks glasses in a towel
on the lounger and strides
across the deck as though
it were nothing. He breathes,
flexes his toes over the edge,
dives into the cool embrace
of deep water and dies.

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