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Poetry and Medicine
June 4, 2003


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;289(21):2767. doi:10.1001/jama.289.21.2767

When the third child in three months
died by dehydration
the mother saw signs
and summoned my camera to her dirt hut
where a chicken strutted guard
near the little corpse.
She laid him out for Easter
in blue satin,
his straw hat in his cold fist,
candles and tortillas
wrapped in last year's news
to light and fortify his soul.
Padre said the Nahuatl
were ignorant of hygiene.
Don't feed superstition
with snapshots of the dead.
But photos were all I had to offer grief
and when the flash lit the dark walls
the mother laughed.
Make the white light come again.
Make it come back.
The print came back
weeks later from a New York lab.
I sent it down believing
she would see her son again
but not his faint halo of flies.

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