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Poetry and Medicine
September 24, 2003

After My Father's Stroke

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2003;290(12):1554. doi:10.1001/jama.290.12.1554

"There I'll recover the gift of tears."
Anna Akhmatova

I never saw him cry. His tears boiled off
Before they had a chance to reach his eyes.
His father shot himself, a sound too soft
For what my father found, guttered, gone,
A sticky gloss upon that old oak desk,
And on those things that memory dared to keep.
Today he sits and cries, all but one
Of his fires gone out. Once I saw a bird,
Egg-wet, un-feathered, its fall to hot macadam
All of flight that it would know. I knelt
And heard its mewling cheep, no thought of what
It might become, only that it wished to live.
It is late, my father, very late,
But you need me now.