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Poetry and Medicine
November 27, 2002

The Last Hug

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2002;288(20):2511. doi:10.1001/jama.288.20.2511

Afterwards, this is what you remembered—
the gaping O
of the mouth, the body wasted like a survivor
of a death camp lying
naked on the bed except for a diaper,
the breasts two flaps of skin
on the jutting ribs,
the eyes closed; and when you bent down
to kiss the loose cheek
and murmur, "Mother, I'm here,"
how the skinny arm, as if it had a life of its own, curled
slowly up and around your shoulders,
how the dry lips pursed slightly
as if to kiss.
That was all.
There was nothing else but the phone
ringing in the dark
and the nurse's voice, soft, "She's gone."