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Poetry and Medicine
July 14, 2010


JAMA. 2010;304(2):133. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.652

The Oak Road boys pushed the bow into my hands
taunting me to take a life for them.
I aimed the arrow high above the squirrel
but low enough to let them think I wanted blood.
The squirrel stood still and hugged the trunk
steady as my pulse until I bent the bow
and snapped it loose. Then the squirrel leapt up
to meet a point in time and catch it in the back.
We watched it pinned to wood a while,
the way paws beat the bark as if to blame
the tree. Before the sky dropped down to fix
those eyes in cloud, it screamed.
It was the human pitch that scared the Oak Road
boys away, but I was stuck by sound until
it stopped. And when it stopped I stayed
more still and felt the rush of blood
veins arrowed at my heart to make me move.
Once, age four, I fell from bed at night
and lay there wild enough to yell the darkness
white, but no one came to put me back.
I hugged the floor in vain for what was lost
and beat my knuckles raw until at last
in that harder place I came alone to sleep.

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