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Poetry and Medicine
July 28, 2004


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(4):416. doi:10.1001/jama.292.4.416

Thirty years later,
I can feel the urgency of his leap,
circle of arms tighten around my neck
when I walk onto the ward.
I have become Jerome's friend,
and we give each ghastly bulge
on his head, a name:
Mickey, Minnie and Lewis Sarcoma.
Each afternoon
in the waning light,
stories about Sir Launcelot
or the Ugly Duckling; his eyes
read mine for the meaning of courage.
At night I wait
for his lids to droop, kiss his head,
inject the chemical cocktail
into the iv line. Sometimes,
in the gauze of sleep,
he blinks and smiles at me.
Everyday the dying children
rise beyond distortion, play
with the fervor of Jerome's hugs.
There is no way to prepare
for the time I arrive
and he is not there;
the stripped-down steel bed,
a clump of hair
from his misshapen head,
the ammoniac stench that lingers,
the children's gaping stare.
The rage I never said. His jubilance
when we turned the page to a swan.

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