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Poetry and Medicine
December 1, 2004

A Quick Lesson

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(21):2554. doi:10.1001/jama.292.21.2554

You might have left it out overnight,
the way it’s lying in the shade near your swing,
its brindled fur smooth as a new toy animal’s.
It lets you hunker down to get a closer look,
even lets you nudge it in the side—the same prod
you’d use to wake the cat
though this sleeper doesn’t startle
toward the privet-hedge. Nothing happens
until you claim it with both hands,
then what was docile on the ground
takes on a cardboard-stiffness—
some stronger hold than yours already on it.
There’s a moment—still cradling it—
when whatever stopped in the garden
makes you stop—and in the hush
though you’re far too young
to ask if it weighs now what it did before,
if the life in it weighed nothing
you must be weighing
something in your mind
before you let it go: rabbit and all.