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Poetry and Medicine
January 9, 2002


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;287(2):163. doi:10.1001/jama.287.2.163

By winning we sanctioned avarice,
by losing we learned wisdom,
by yielding we became the sky.
But what of dying?
The deaths we have known,
the endgame words, the serrated lives,
returned to us now full circle
as a ball that once held
seems to grow rounder
in a day that stands up straight
like the patient seabird.
And then just like that
with idle speed, no wake,
a writhing sun coughs its
redness upon our eyes,
and in a blink
we call night
incontinent clouds narrate
And soon anything means everything.
What is left of dying?
Flags of waving trees that semaphore a truce
like a firewall, on one side morning glorys
restating round and round
this tight need for pole, and on the other
the non-need of poles to be vined,
of cake to be crowned with a couple,
so that in the end
the way a puff of air
might imagine a lung,
the cheetah will feed,
children will leave,
love will end.
Yet these too are not death.
We are not dying
the way we thought we would.

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