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Poetry and Medicine
April 6, 2005

On Decatur Island

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to

JAMA. 2005;293(13):1557. doi:10.1001/jama.293.13.1557

Hope is a thing with feathers— that perches in the soul—        Emily Dickinson
On the hillside behind our place, a plum tree,
barely standing.
When we bought here, eighteen years ago,
it was already ancient.
I’ve never known it to bear fruit.
Pecked by a thousand woodpeckers, its bark
has separated from the trunk.
One secondary is on the ground, three others,
ugly, sawed-off snags.
Still, the plum tree is not without hope:
the hope hopeful man, as if by instinct, seeds
over all the earth;
the hope that I—propped-open coronaries,
false hip, burnt-out prostate—see in a single
spray of white blossoms.

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