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Poetry and Medicine
November 17, 2004

When the crash cart

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(19):2316. doi:10.1001/jama.292.19.2316

hit the tray table blocking the door
seven wish-well cards domino
tumbled and a red ribbon tail escaped
its sandbag berth then floated and
dipped as its balloon head tapped
the ceiling by the window
we stared as the monitor’s green
line sputtered spikes settled into
R-row order and you glared through
the clearing hair singe smoke,
through the thicker haze of your
reasonable question given the
rib crush heart bruise
lung leak liver lac
and his 79 years, except that
five days before he was loading
logs in the bed of an old pickup that
slipped out of Park so often they
usually blocked the wheels, but
with the right load and the right
driveway pitch it rolled back
over wedges and flannel shirt, so
we’ll give him that one; but now
one son, two daughters, an ex-
wife and the respiratory tech
nephew know we can’t wean
the vent, the kidneys are
keeping creatinine and he’s not
waking up even off-azepam, so
if family agrees and policy permits the
next time we’ll stay off the chest, let
pupils drift to iris edges where
they stop as dented disks and
corneas steel to cotton wisps till
no reflex blink breaks his stare up
to where the balloon in ambient
indoor wind still knocks near the
closed window and looks out over
the mixed hardwood canopy beyond
the north wing