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Poetry and Medicine
April 16, 2003

The Road Not Crossed

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;289(15):1895. doi:10.1001/jama.289.15.1895

to my wife

Carly Simon is singing from my car radio, reifying her old grief:
Suffering was the only thing made me feel I was alive.
Thought that's just how much it cost to survive in this world.
And, knowing how sorrow loves to inhabit the body,
how it runs like liquid to the void,
I'm nodding in agreement
when three young boys swagger across the road,
daring me to run them over,
each feeding off the others' bravado.
I floor the accelerator,
then hit the brakes,
letting fear travel the optic nerves of their staring eyes
and beat within their rabbit hearts,
for fear loves to protect all children,
asks only to be remembered,
so no one has to whisper:
"That child's death was the parents' executioner,
a bullet through the heart."
The boys are about the age of our son,
that fingerprint of me,
who, from the start of life, reached
for everything just beyond his grasp,
the way, in my restless mind, I reach
for his hand to take him safely across the road
this time.