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Poetry and Medicine
November 2, 2005

After reading Su Shih’s elegy for his friend

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2005;294(17):2135. doi:10.1001/jama.294.17.2135

The snow comes down,
in grains called graupel,
        to brocade the wings
of nest-bound birds.
        As the grains fall,
they wear away at the dark
        and leave it in soft obelisks
between the coming flakes.
        In Su Shih’s thousand-year elegy,
I hear the death of Paul Davis,
        my once-was friend and teacher,
who wiped himself right off
        this world at forty-three.
It feels like a night
        to give a small prayer:
one granulated, like a bead
        at the needle’s end
of a syringe
        plunged of its air.

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