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Poetry and Medicine
March 7, 2001

Some Days Nothing Can Save Us

JAMA. 2001;285(9):1128. doi:10.1001/jama.285.9.1128

Once, when our son was four,
playing with cousins, he slammed
and stumbled into the house,
crying as if smashed by a rock.
Older kids told why, led us
to a dumpster in the alley
a few doors down. All had gone
exploring, peeking at trash
to see what treasures
neighbors had thrown away. Sometimes,
a day brings games and baubles;
sometimes, bricks and blood.
The shock of what Charles saw
was a fact I never learned
until Saigon, that some days
nothing can save us. Some fool
had killed blind kittens with a stone,
and for weeks they clawed
in his mind at night, kitten fur
and blood and bile, little teeth
like zippers that couldn't close.

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