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Poetry and Medicine
February 1, 2006

My Father in the Hospital

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2006;295(5):478. doi:10.1001/jama.295.5.478

After the dipping of profane hands
into the glistening jellies of your abdomen
they closed it up again,
leaving you clay-faced in sheets,
a tube of mucus curling out your nose.
You face the buzzing of the ceiling light
like a fallen wonder or a sacrifice.
There's your matted hair, your pale stick legs,
and a choir of beeping monitors
circling the sacred mystery of your head.
No louder than a flower, you are breathing.
Now that you’ve returned to dailiness
we're allowed the fits and grocery trips and anger,
all that sweet imperfect love and hassle,
the familial taking-for-grantedness, the banal.
For there are mysteries that we’ve lost
in this antiseptic age.
Yet there remains the body,
its ancient range of pain,
and the truth that all in suffering
become far away and holy.

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