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Poetry and Medicine
February 13, 2002

Leaving Stalag 17

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;287(6):691. doi:10.1001/jama.287.6.691

the nazis are meeting
in the arts and craft room
much as they did in '35
Josif, "the crook," steals his clothes
while staff hides his cane
in labyrinths of halls
he needs a ticket to ride the elevator
and a code to open doors
to places he's forgotten
he speculates on watchamacallits
and thingies to your left
he plans to finish his report
make his presentation tomorrow
to the audience that used to come
he wears the greyed sweater
given him fifteen years ago
security against the visitors
that appear unbidden
at the foot of his bed
he carries a phone number
on cardboard
gives a stranger a quarter
to call someone
he doesn't remember
he fears police will pick him up
for the nightstand that sits
by the side of his bed
Sundays, they'll dip him
up and down in a vat of water
till he comes out shiny clean
he'll get a haircut if
someone remembers
to hire a barber
and book a time
for now he'll wobble
off to the craft room
see what the nazis are up to

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