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Poetry and Medicine
May 2, 2001

The Last Stage

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(17):2172. doi:10.1001/jama.285.17.2172

When the mind dams up, time pools in the heart.
Then memory festers and all grows still.
What seems at first to be a surrender
of the body to endless aches and pains
is instead a defense against plunder.
Nothing works. Impulse sizzles in the brain.
What fit together slowly comes apart
in the harsh soak of dementia until
death like mercy takes the body under.
We watch helpless on the crest of a hill
as their blood courses darkly through our veins.

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