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Poetry and Medicine
May 26, 2004

Sly Lullaby: S.I.D.S.

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(20):2410. doi:10.1001/jama.291.20.2410

We believed in our Trinity:
Mother, Father, and me,
love stable as a triangle.
We left our Snuggery
safe as any Holy Family.
But we learned nothing
could keep disaster from
our nursery. No charm, no
mystic talisman enfolded
me, shrouded me in light
to stop death at my
threshold. Death spoke
a single word, crushing
the cradle of hope.
The jackal stalked
our sanctuary so filled
with promise, so alive
with prayer. Stealthy
death climbed the stairs
and found my pampered room,
painted and festooned
with parrots and blue moons.
Death slid below the water
stretching wide its
crocodile smile, I did
not cry out, feeling neither
panic nor pain. Just a slight
tightening. Death spoke
my secret name. I could not
stay with them.
Nothing in realms of
medicine, where those two
remain, explains how
my breath was caught
inside those jaws and I
cannot console the two
who spread wide wings
above me, vowing to protect
my rabbit heart so fiercely
quieted. They saw my
future as a lemon drop:
sweet and warm and tart.
How could they foresee
crushed velvet, purple
crepe, a miniature autopsy.
I hear their bitter cry
as science probes
its anguished why.

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