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Poetry and Medicine
September 15, 2004

Shadows in Summer

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(11):1275. doi:10.1001/jama.292.11.1275

The summers come back to you. A few,
more than others. You recall the time
when you battered that baby blackbird
from its nest near your grandmother's house
because something inside you whispered
it was arrogant for birds to nest
in branches near ground. And the duckling
by that placid stream, hit once again
with dirt clods, and you became puzzled
when it flipped over on its back, its head
strangely, suddenly meeting the depths
to face its familiar elements:
fish, earth, current. Yes, you did these things
simply because the out of reach
fell quickly, brilliantly, within grasp.
Maybe it happened the same summer
your two-year-old brother wandered off
and swallowed insecticide, throwing
you into that smothering panic
entrenched for years. Still, you carry on,
go home to television and watch
as the bombers on 12 O'clock High
—like ones your father flew—start earthward
in slow departure from controlled flight,
rolling inverted. Though the same scenes,
you always wished more chutes would blossom.
You wish you could take the dirt clods back.