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Poetry and Medicine
January 2, 2002

Mary Elise believes

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;287(1):14. doi:10.1001/jama.287.1.14

the dead return as cardinals, told
her kids their pop-pop had
come back, scarlet feathers and travel
song to the open window ledge. I
didn't have this in mind when
Sal went from soon to
any day and neurofibril tangles
kept shutting down lights and
shorting switches till the last two
weeks he never even opened his
eyes, and gape-mouthed Cheyne
Stokes' snores dried his palate
shiny red, or
even think of it the day
before when nettle
bed digging almost
buried a fallen fledgling,
spotty feathered fuzz trying to
roll upright, eyes closed, mouth
open wanting something
in a mother's beak, with the
dusky red female two branches up
in the honeysuckle understory, her
short shrill sharp chirps till I
remembered the empty
robin's nest under the deck and
wondered if a mother's wings
would neglect a baby in a
foreign bird bed as they would one
human handled, so without touching I
shoveled dirt, felled nettles and
hatchling into nest, treed it and the next
morning Sal was gone. I
don't remember opening any
windows but so often since
I've seen the blood red male—first
in the black walnut by the fence, next
atop the white mulberry near the
swings, every time singing
coming closer

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