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Poetry and Medicine
March 17, 2004

Ward Nine (Male Geriatric)

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(11):1300. doi:10.1001/jama.291.11.1300

Village elders huddle in the dayroom
thirsty, confused, afraid.
And I, a lone warrior near their age,
am left behind to protect them.
We hear a jungle bird screech
Somewhere down the brown-tiled corridor,
followed closely by the unmistakable growl
of a wild beast on the hunt.
But all the huts are shuttered now
and all the occupants gathered
Round a dim, blue fire.
Gathered against the prowl.
It is night—the most dangerous time,
when hearts and minds begin to wander.
When all that was and might have been
Come softly padding, long incisors bared
and golden eyes agleam.
It quickens the pulse
and doubles one's thirst,
but where I wait
The water fountain seems
light years away.
The tiger must have his meal,
then all who survive
can drink.

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