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Poetry and Medicine
July 15, 2009

Sweet Gum

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2009;302(3):235. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1009

In shade of the broken willow
furiously leafing from its own rot,
lank branches swooning like useless
limbs that will never walk again,
I planted a sweet gum tree,
a sapling no higher than my eyes,
the open hands of the lobed leaves
reaching out to catch whatever
scraps of light might fall from above.
Beneath self-flagellating whips
its slender body leans in the breeze,
and no one knows it's here but me,
just a shadow in shade, waiting
for things to grow, for things to die.