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Poetry and Medicine
July 20, 2005


Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2005;294(3):284. doi:10.1001/jama.294.3.284

And when at first light the cantata
came on the cassette and your
languid eyes stayed shut,
your breath quite fast at last, I filled your
shaky hands with clackety dry lentils
and tucked last year’s lamb’s
wool around your tired feet.
  In time your hands stopped
  trembling, the lentils grew silent.
As I watched you reach your final rest I felt
I was a baby again: sobbing and squirming
when left alone, exposed against my will,
furious and inconsolable, unable to prevail
no matter how just my desire—I want,
I want—unable to persuade the one
I loved most to come to me and stay.
  I shed my clothes then
  shrouded my body in old satin.
For the few hours left of your life, I nestled
close against you and sang to the heave
and fall of your chest. And then I sang
to your silent and my broken heart. I
wanted you to open your eyes and look
at me one last time before the sun pierced
and burned and slashed our bed in two.

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