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Poetry and Medicine
May 23/30, 2007

Take Me to the Green Valley

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;297(20):2170. doi:10.1001/jama.297.20.2170

We made his coffin out of soft, white pine,
long side boards scored to bend
into wide-shouldered contours of the old shape.
Lines of grain accented
knots of deep-earth brown
like eyes of the old pine looking out to its utility.
It had holes in the bottom for the ground
to join him when the snows melt to run-off.
We burned, on the top, the horizon silhouette
of the mountain he could see from his bed—
and sheep on the range
and an old sheep wagon with off-center door
like the one he called home as a boy.
On the end board we burned a leaping trout
about to grab at the hand-tied fly on his line;
on the sides, rough designs
of all the wildlife of his wild life.
For handles we picked six horseshoes
from an old oil bucket behind the barn—
rusted, worn, encrusted in the grooves
with manure and mountain mud.
We screwed them into strips of cowhide marked with his brand—
lazy M, inverted T, bar—
fastened to the coffin, three on a side.
And for planting him down
like a seed into new-ploughed ground,
we used lassos,
three of them, each at least fifteen feet.
Strong young ranch hands
at the sides of the hole
slowly unwound the ropes.

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