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Poetry and Medicine
March 17, 2010


Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2010;303(11):1016. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.178

“Suspended animation,”
said my seven-year old son,
spying the streamlined apparition
barely resisting gravity
at the bottom of an aquarium.
“That nurse shark, he's
two hundred and sixty million years old.”
Here was eternity at work,
cold efficiency revealed in
lidless eyes and
advantageously crafted
lack of conscience.
“Suspended animation,”
cried my grieving friend,
arriving at the home of her dearest companion,
finding the half-eaten dinner, cluttered rooms,
and framed smiling friends
silent with the promise of life ongoing,
the hoped-for momentary absence;
betrayed forever in her discovery
of his unblinking gaze
and quiet blue body
floating limply,
not at rest.
So heavy are these remains,
these truths we invested
in diaries and photographs,
petrified skeletons and fossilized teeth.
So weightless now
are those reasons,
religions, intuitions,
as I suspend my belief.
“Dad, he's moving,”
my son calls as he points to the aquarium.
I turn quickly to see for myself,
and the shark is gone.
“Don't worry,” my son laughs.
“He’ll be back.”