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Poetry and Medicine
November 10, 2004

Long After the Loss

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(18):2194. doi:10.1001/jama.292.18.2194

They made an unspoken pact between them
to bury grief somewhere in the house
where the throaty sound of laughter still jumped out
from behind a doorway at unexpected times
to grab the ankles of their recovery.
The pain itself was hard in the center,
but sticky to the touch and gray-fuzzed on the surface
like a piece of fruit long forgotten in the bottom
of a bag of important papers.
Sometimes she would find it
under a clean stack of folded towels
or, reaching for the right spice, she might
touch it in the back of a pantry cupboard.
It caught him off guard in a tool chest
near the tack hammer half the size of the one he used.
Mostly they just stuck the grief
back into another place
and went on their way through a hobbled day
as if running a three-legged race
in which they kept falling down together.
But sometimes one of them would take it up
and try to know it better,
like a curiously derelict old acquaintance
or hold onto it tightly
through the spores and mold-dust
and try to toss it out of the house.

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