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Poetry and Medicine
November 24, 2004

Tymbal Song

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(20):2446. doi:10.1001/jama.292.20.2446

for Tom
Cicadas brooding in silence forty seasons
begin their dry parchment keening today.
You are dying. A monochrome landscape folds
over us. But vision accommodates, unfolding
olive green on the underside of the season’s
lighter leaves. Then purple touches the day’s
slate clouds. That’s how it goes some days.
On others the cedar swamp’s stillness enfolds
us, and filtered light illuminates seasons
of tree litter on mud. Then, like sea sun
submerged, light bands and sways; the day
whispers, dry branch on branch and folds
leaf on leaf, hushed as waves self-folding—
distant, the churring of your final season.
And breath comes close and hard these days.
The minutes drift and drag. You try, but today
cicadas sing even as they die, enfolded
by ants. With strange time, your dying is seasoned.
Whole seasons cautiously fold into days.

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