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Poetry and Medicine
May 19, 2020

The Sound of Grief

Author Affiliations
  • 1Boston University Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2020;323(19):1977. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1307

I watch in silence
as another boy lies still
upon this shrouded cot.
Garnet jelly pools beside his chest
and bubbles seep from holes
torn in the pale soft skin.
A sigh escapes the room as
if the air has been released
and all the noise replaced by
softer sounds, the closing up
of drawers the final keyboard clicks
the wide broom brushes on the
trash strewn floor the contents to be
bagged and tied for homicide
or simply thrown away.

I slide out of my car
a weary wreck myself
and hear from somewhere close
a movement in the grass
and for a moment I imagine someone with a gun.
It’s just a rabbit startled in the night.
Last week I found three baby bunnies
huddled in a den inside my yard.
I knew I could not keep them safe
and when I found them later hurt or dead
I gently picked them up to place
their tender bodies in a bag
and tossed them in the trash.

I walk in darkness
up the gray stone stairs
and stop to think about how life could end
by bullets shot between the ribs
or locked inside the jaws of dogs.
My heart beats quicker than it should.
My blood runs warm and smooth.
I fill my lungs with air, exhale and turn the key
and then I listen for the sound of grief
but all I hear tonight at last
is my soft breath and then
the softly moaning wind.

Section Editor: Rafael Campo, MD, MA, Associate Editor.
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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Elizabeth L. Mitchell, MD (emitchel@bu.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

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    1 Comment for this article
    Thank you, Elizabeth!
    CJ Hinke, PhD | Thammasat University, Bangkok
    We knew we were signing on for heartache. You've expressed what we feel about death every single day. Today will be no different. Thank you.