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Poetry and Medicine
July 26, 2000

Imagining the Route

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2000;284(4):408. doi:10.1001/jama.284.4.408

Spring had just begun to soft-foot
in the field, rising out of bitter soil
in morning fog that softened everything.
True, the warmth at noon was edged
with something thinner, sharp and cool.
But pale gold meadow grass stood higher
every day, the sky lifted and blued
and tanagers were just about to flash against
the line of hills that took the sun at night.
My father felt the surge of sunshine
coming on, the loosening of things,
the brimming of the earth as terrible.
He packed his bag and went into
the cold consoling night.
Mother turned her face away.
One sister slipped upstairs to sit
inside the dark. The other followed him outside,
her childhood closed within the circle
of her eyes. I wasn't there
but I'm the one who knows
he must have gone along the river road
to where it meets the turn to town,
following his shortcut toward
the quiet of the office and the medicines,
the cleanness and the separation of himself
from us.
I think he loved the drowsiness,
the languor winding out inside his arms
and legs. When sleep approached
from every corner of the room
he let it come till time became
the column where he lay.
Inside its tightening shaft
he saw the phone go into dream.
A little cold, he went to sleep,
just hours short of when the thaw began.

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