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Poetry and Medicine
January 26, 2005

In memoriam

JAMA. 2005;293(4):403. doi:10.1001/jama.293.4.403

We shuffle into place and grieve in stanzas.
The acoustics cling like lint and everything—
family man, scholar, citizen, soldier—
sounds fuzzy and unraveled.
I read the hymns on my neighbor’s lips.
I count the panes of stained glass.
The windows are too kind—
saints in post-beatitude poses
as if their share of suffering
is over, blame placed, sins forgiven,
and all they have to do now
is exemplify faith and endurance
the way models in catalogues
smile at the sea and stay young.
The sky is too blue, robes too soft,
martyrdom too therapeutic.
I explore my dark suit’s pockets—
a prescription pad, a photo ID,
a list of people who expect a call,
a list of errands (birdseed, fertilizer),
a list of wards and numbered diagnoses.
Afterwards, there’s a reception up the hill
but I am chiming like a clock
and rush off after letting the survivors
one at a time thank me for everything.

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