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Poetry and Medicine
May 12, 1999


Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;281(18):1674G. doi:10.1001/jama.281.18.1674

One square centimeter
Bestowed by the U.S. Postal Service.
To explain that this tidy parcel
Was the last of my father
Returning to his birthplace.
Estimated worth of contents?
Queried the form
Of these eight pounds
Of ashes en route
To a holy Hindu dispersal.
Should I begin
With thirty thousand?
One thousand per year
We coexisted.
Or drop by one thousand
For each month
We ceased to speak
Over a forgotten dispute
Eight years ago.
Or raise by one thousand
As remuneration
For the swell of pride
I enjoyed
When he spoke
At my wedding.
Spirited words hastened
By four liters of oxygen.
Or drop by one thousand,
For each hour in intensive care,
Watching him breathe life
Into neon waves
Of sinus arrhythmia.
Or leave this space vacant
Like myself,
The morning he died.