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Poetry and Medicine
October 19, 2005

Parliament Day

JAMA. 2005;294(15):1868. doi:10.1001/jama.294.15.1868

His chest heaved from
hemoptysis after
five packs of Parliaments
a day,
even before the cancer came.
“Miller,” I called him.
His hair was
a tasseled mane.
We brushed it,
put the oxygen on,
raised his legs and
rubbed them with oils.
He told me,
“Korea was the war
that called me over.”
Then the hand fell
akimbo.
His brassy Masonic ring
glimmered.
The EKG line
fell flat.
His last breath
was mine for him.
The rush of the oxygen,
his final rite.
I dreamed of the ocean,
his stories of trilobites, and
the rosary beads
his family once gave him,
before he fell sick.
We bathed him.
I called his name to the
gods
and signed, MD.

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