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Poetry and Medicine
March 23 2011

His Last Season

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2011;305(12):1173. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.179

Still courting lymphoma, intending
to flirt again tonight with a dozen
exotic neoplasms, bones cooked
for years to a brittle foam in smoke
and ethanol, he leads with his big-liver
pre-diabetic belly and tangos
out the door after dinner, heart
harassed to an adequate squeeze where it sags
on his heaving diaphragm. He wheezes
toward the car to cart himself
downtown once more to Ibiza
for the evening Flamenco show. He knows
he's riding on hopes worn past all traction,
bald as the radials barely holding
his Buick to the rain-slicked road. He skids
like a hepped-up kid when he pulls in, pops
a cigarette between his lips for the half-
a-city-block walk to the door, and once
inside, he's looking—
still hiding, might blow in tonight
through a portal in the music and uplift him
on the cadences of the talk with a woman
he's about to meet. Love could pour
through the alley between the crumpled towers
of his lungs, stir high all at once
the tossed-out scores, loose papers,
the unsigned, unfinished stories
of his lost days, rediscovered,
alive even now in this his last season,
not because he's earned Love's gift
with any courage or devotion,
nor has his suffering deserved it, but
the muse (Some evenings, she observes
the dancers from the tall gold curtains . . . )—
she could return, to return the uncertain
kiss he left, the night of his first
whiskey, on the lips of the girl
he never saw before or since,
to welcome him at last to his own
disappearance, to dance with him once
while his stretched spirit still sticks
to his guts, or for no human reason.