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Poetry and Medicine
April 16, 2008

At the retreat

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2008;299(15):1752. doi:10.1001/jama.299.15.1752

the PICU attendings and nurses
talk about their work and end up
in tears,
then apologize for crying,
then thank us for the opportunity,
then beg us
not to dare demean their rage
with appreciation.
Nothing feels as right
as righteous indignation
a wise general might say
while choosing the next battle.
A dead two-year-old
is not just dead but gypped
of 80 actuarial years.
Most of my dead 82-year-olds
had been more or less ready to go,
but that's not the reason
I didn't go into pediatrics.
Nor the wails of innocence,
nor the tiny veins, nor
the routine of stabbing newborn heels
to get some blood—
a drop or two—
for bilirubin screening.
Rather the mothers
dying of hope.