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Poetry and Medicine
October 27, 2004

Halloween, 1995

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;292(16):1932. doi:10.1001/jama.292.16.1932

That was the night when the body dropped
its skin, the last costume fled the attic
and my father lay in his electric bed.
Where did the hair go? An old tree sheds
twigs like memory. The children
in wigs run loose, palms out,
swallowing mystery and sugar
while my drugged father, untethered
at last, turns blue from the toes up.
After the clock chokes on its magic number
who lets the air in? When night seeps through
the eyes the tongue will forget its dance.
As the blue licked at his knees
we struggled like blind worms flushed
by rain, stranded in light. Don’t children stop
at the edge of the woods? Don’t saints
hold out their hands? Then the nurse said:
What’s farthest from the heart dies first.