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Poetry and Medicine
January 12, 2011

Haitian Humanity

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2011;305(2):129. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1859

The face of cachexia suffers
starved eyes of absence
even when food presents
—the viruses
loading up inside,
the deficient stare of the victim
who knows his fate,
or the observer putting it all together
whom no reward awaits
except relief of suffering.
Is love the absence of hate
or the absence of pain
in a world defined by the negative?
—like the shadows of our dying bodies
we glimpse at dusk
before hiding in ourselves once again.
Luck of where and when
trumps all;
school building or street,
city or farm
determines survival
when the ground melts
—a vibration as evil
as the absence of fairness,
in a country starved of goodness,
where smiles seem painful
because they convey hope
that recited verses
will protect from the next stroke
of earth or man
or at least distract the darkness
from suffering souls
long enough to regenerate the kindness
to unexpectedly bed-bathe the stranger
dying alone in the next cot,
naked in the throes of dementia-driven death,
because it's right to be human,
and that's what it is
above all else.

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