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Poetry and Medicine
May 14, 2003

The Sickbed

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;289(18):2330. doi:10.1001/jama.289.18.2330

The poet's wife is in a fever, so young
she could be his daughter: and still he writes,
writes, as she dreams of sipping orange ices
in Georgia. Outside her room the doctors gather
like white ravens, recording the corruption
of her flesh, but she remembers the first
sound of his voice, when the flesh became word
and she received his power. Are there words
that can defeat the final diagnosis?
The fever lifts her high above the earth
like a touring balloon; in the tiny landscape
past and future have merged. Now she is ready,
her soul is refreshed, the past lunges toward her
as she dreams her way back to a lost childhood,
which is all he ever wanted to write about.

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