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Poetry and Medicine
July 25, 2001

My Father Light as a Boy

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2001;286(4):390. doi:10.1001/jama.286.4.390

Still shaves himself, electric, flat on his back,
chin up to tighten skin on bone. Done,
he holds the shaver on the bed, palm up
like an offering, silver and gold and black.
Decades ago, my father could lift a man-thick log
and heave it over a fence, neck muscles bulging.
Now eighty five, he's Mother's size, but bald.
He lifts the razor like a crane, underpowered
for such a weight, thin shoulder hinging slowly
toward the tray. I shove up from the chair,
too late. He's there, and turns his palm
to dump it on its side. And being that far there,
he cuts his eyes at me, a sign he'd like to turn.
I lift the bony shoulders and begin to twist,
reach down and turn the gaunt hips bruised
from shots, the knobby knees. He doesn't groan,
won't say a word, biting hard to swallow.
I touch his parchment scalp and rub,
I won't let go. He's staring at the door.
I hear his stomach noise, his breath, his breath.
His eyelids blink, so sticky dry they pop.

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