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Poetry and Medicine
October 10, 2007

The Tree

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;298(14):1610. doi:10.1001/jama.298.14.1610

Memory believes before knowing remembers.
         —William Faulkner, Light in August

Grassy earth bulges above.
Branches stretch away,
twig and fade in leaves
dim with the other side
of light lapping underneath,
then all forever to fall.
He tastes the salt,
feels the heat sliding
up his back, gritty
bark runging curled knees.
The sun, unseen, throbs
at the center of things.
Face flushed with gravity
of blood, he senses again
in voices ringing up-
side down, outside in,
the presence like a breathing
closer than his own.
Shade tightens in a dome.
He scrunches
to that first curious pose
then flings himself swinging
like a bell's pounding tongue
and calls out to the only
one he cares to show—
“Hey Mo-o-o-o-om!”
Through the dark glint
of her glasses she smiles,
then shouts from sunlight,
“I see you, I see you!”
The child's spine shivers
in wonder, terror, joy,
as though separate threads
silver, gold, and black—
the void from self to soul—
were now woven into one.