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Poetry and Medicine
August 11, 1999

Sitting Patient

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;282(6):510. doi:10.1001/jama.282.6.510

Lung cancer keeps my father from his chores.
He stands by the front window and watches
an entire day pass with nonjudging eyes.
He watches his wife back out the driveway
to get more medicine and more Ensure
and to make appointments with more doctors.
He lifts his thin hand as if to pledge Truth,
breathing with lungs as soft and moist as moss.
He places a chair close to the window,
sitting patient, calm and full of knowledge.
What he knows is just beneath the cancer.
His smooth translucent hands form a skin nest
on his twig thighs, his voice locked in its box
far from where his eyes dawn and are eclipsed
by more than the pain of death, which passes.
This is the pain of dying, which lives on.