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Poetry and Medicine
December 10, 2019

The Case for Waking

Author Affiliations
  • 1Chapel Hill, North Carolina
JAMA. 2019;322(22):2251. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.17962

Beside my husband’s ICU bed, I plead my case
for waking, hold my palm flat as a bible,
place his warm hand on mine. His face inscrutable
beneath a bandage wreath, he breathes on his own,
his heart pumps, his blood flows, but his brain sleeps.
I try to reach him with evidence of our need:
sharing handwritten words on well-wishers’ cards,
family photos, cassette tapes of our daughter’s
toddler chatter, unstopped bottle of Shalimar.
To hold him in this world, I read aloud
cliff-hanger chapters; play radio news;
bring a transistor TV for daytime soaps.
Close friends enlisted for strictly timed visits
testify to their love, and beg him to resist.

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