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Poetry and Medicine
June 13, 2012


Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Preston Medical Library, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville (djdoyle@utmck.edu).

JAMA. 2012;307(22):2353. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3554

When I see the purple martin
   gleaming lost in summer grass,
I know, from once responding
   otherwise, exactly what to do:
retrieve pillowcase and box,
   return afraid my hands will grasp
too hard, my human-heavy scent
   suffocate lungs used to loamy earth.
Inside, the man I have not yet married
   remains recovering from a stroke,
unable to walk, speech and vision stuttered
   and dimmed, snapped limb of our lives
scattering splinters around us.
   From nested sleep he finds me, opens
his mouth for pills placed on his tongue.
   Back in the yard, fear of not trying
moves me closer to the bird, his body
   a gift in my suddenly certain hands.
The box where he is lowered
   fills with all that has fallen and flown.
He looks at me the way birds do,
   as if I am the one fallen.