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Poetry and Medicine
October 27, 2015


Author Affiliations
  • 1Newton, Massachusetts

Copyright 2015 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2015;314(16):1755. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.6421

It’s time to leave when pictures on the walls
begin to look like pleasant art
and dinner served at 5 o’clock
finds me hungry at this early hour.
It’s time to leave when I see myself
as one of aching bodies johnnied on their beds
and almost do not heed their groaning cries for help,
told that no one’s sure about their minds
as I sometimes pass them like the people charged
with taking care of them.
It’s time to leave when the flat screen HDTV
plays silently much better
than my outmoded cathode ray
and I think perhaps I want one.
I know it’s time to leave
when fighting for my meds
becomes a ritual with each new nurse’s shift.
It’s time to wander home
and make the best of it—
as if I will not end up somewhere
in a place like this some day.