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Poetry and Medicine
March 14, 2007

To My Daughter

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;297(10):1036. doi:10.1001/jama.297.10.1036

What is this smell?
Some oil, some ketone, some
other chemical or combination of these
leaching from your skin
and breath and hair
up to my nose.
It smells like the press
of your tiny forehead
against my chest
feels, or the tickle of
your fine hair, brushing
up to my chin.
These feels and smells
they trigger love, they rest
my restlessness
subdue exhaustion
goad me to hold you
long after you fall back to sleep.
Transmitted by my shhhhhs,
my whispered lullabies,
my rocking heartbeat pressing close
to yours, double-timed,
these will sleep, deep in your
infant memory, insensate,
until your daughter
wakes you up late to
cry and fuss, until
your rocked embrace imparts
this smell and feel and sound
of love to her.

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