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Poetry and Medicine
August 16, 2006

After Reading

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2006;296(7):737. doi:10.1001/jama.296.7.737

for John Stone, MD 

When I started out in medicine,
before I married and before
I had written a single poem,
I read your poetry like a hiker
on a treacherous trail who finally
stops to rest and drink and admire
the view of snow-capped peaks.
Three decades later I imagine you,
ten years younger than my father
would be if bad genes, bad luck, and bad
doctoring hadn't killed him long ago.
Without a father to guide me north,
your poems were a compass
pointing toward a world
where doctors can be poets,
where the pulse of each line
begins with the heartbeat we hear
when we bend close to our patients.
I pray you, too, are drinking deep
from whatever stream brings you
to your knees, and I hope
you can hear my boots striding
behind yours, cracked from the heat,
covered with dust, both soles still strong.

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