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Poetry and Medicine
July 17, 2002

The Newborns

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;288(3):284. doi:10.1001/jama.288.3.284

All through the night, all through the long
witless hallways of my sleep,
from my hospital bed
I heard the newborn babies sing
their soft bubbles of wonder,
the fierce beginning
of their lament.
From where I lay, I imagined them
like new arrivals anywhere,
bewildered, between worlds,
unacquainted with the names of things,
having just crossed over.
A kind nurse named Laura
had taken me for a stroll
to exercise the red line of my wound.
We had stopped by the nursery window
and a flannel-swathed boy
in a clear plastic cradle
was pushed to the glass.
We peered at him and said,
"You've come to Earth.
Welcome." And we laughed
and shook our heads.
When I lay in my bed in the darkness
of 3 AM, I heard the newborn babies cry—
that bright hiss, hot and furious,
the incomprehension,
the insistent protest
against all desire.
First one, then another—
small bonfires lit
in the thick dark air.

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