Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

On the Day of Her Death

Ted McMahon

Poet’s statement: With regard to poetry and healing, I think that the discipline of writing poetry demands the cultivation of a certain kind of attention to story, of attention to detail. I strive to bring this kind of attention to my clinical encounters in medicine. I believe that for most of us who become ill, the healing process begins with the realization that we have been fully listened to, and truly heard.time stopped as we waited in the wind

and dust for the phone call that would explain

there had been a mistake, the call that never came.

Even so, she’d been rushing around

in joy these last few months as if

she would never have time for everything.



On the second day of her death

the sky remained brilliant, inexplicably blue.

Train whistles screamed out the hours

as the taxi drivers continued to hurry

their passengers to their urgent

and usual destinations. I dreamed

of a sidewalk stained dark, a stain

I tried again and again to erase.




On the third day of her death

another shipment of tears arrives

unbidden, but welcome. I imagine

an elegant candle, after a magnificent meal

stubbed down to a pool of hot wax

and a wick, a candle that flares briefly

and fiercely before going out.



This poem first appeared in the April 21, 2004 issue of JAMA



DR. TED MCMAHON is a Seattle pediatrician and poet. A graduate of Williams College and Duke University School of Medicine, he currently practices half-time in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard and devotes the other half to writing and leading river journeys (www.innerjourney.info).


Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2010 – Volume 2, Issue 1
Winter 2010  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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