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Poetry and Medicine
November 7, 2007

Identifying the Body

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;298(17):1982. doi:10.1001/jama.298.17.1982

At the morgue dead are reduced
to a face
smaller than life.
My father: gray-orange
handsome, not cold.
I touched the hard cheek
and remember him
even in my fingers.
My wife could not view
her mother.
After twenty-five years
I remember her both ways, still.
Loss is persistent as bone.
When they raise the sheet on me
do this last kind thing:
tell them, That's him,
my husband.
Husband once meant tiller
of soil or master of the house
but words have more lives
than skin.
Just say, Yes.
I will be in your hands.

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