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Poetry and Medicine
September 20, 2006

Small Breaths

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2006;296(11):1326. doi:10.1001/jama.296.11.1326

A man lying awake at night
suddenly remembers how
the woman sleeping next to him
suffered once unbearably
at the outset of an ordeal that
rewrote the script of her life—
how, too weak to talk, she
fixed her wide eyes on him
as the gurney was wheeled away
into the operating room, the crisis,
the coma, that place where
she was never more alone—
and for the first time in 15 years
tears flood his eyes. He turns
toward her, rests his hand
on the small of her back, lightly,
so as not to wake her,
listens gratefully to her small breaths.

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