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Poetry and Medicine
February 22, 2006

Intensive Care

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2006;295(8):865. doi:10.1001/jama.295.8.865

A quiet place for dying, glass walls reaching into the sky,
the slow pump of machines, the occasional low-pitched beep,
the ebb and flow in the urine bag beneath the bed waiting
to be emptied.
Still breathing—slow gasping sounds
of air escaping—in his deep sleep, the room eludes him,
its coils of tubes winding and unwinding, moving
his life from one container to another.
Perhaps he has thoughts
somewhere, not here, but thoughts the sound
of my voice may recall, the quarrel of a shattered day,
the long drive through the Central Valley in the late afternoon
of a summer haze
when neither of us spoke of tomorrow
when neither of us knew that tomorrow was here, in this room,
glass walls breathing to the sky, and the nurse, softly,
tells me to speak to you, and I speak,
and there is nothing to say
except words, sounds thrust out of my body like gentle hooks
to catch you.

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