277. Kinds of Things

And people did
All kinds of things
When they found
Out: so thought
Louise, as she kneeled
Crouching over Riah in near
Darkness, deftly
Lighting and re-lighting
Candles fizzing, blackened
By the dust, the draft–
Drawing matches, striking:
Sizzling flame.

Your son is dead, or dying.
She’d told families
That, as she had packed
Her bag–oh, many
Times. With lack of
Food, no rain to cleanse
The water–ponds were
Soups of filth, drool-thick–
At last small bodies
That must drink and wash, withstood
No more. No dollars,
No doc there.

Is dead, is dying.
Sometimes they would hit her,
Parents, shove her,
Shake her arm:
What’d you say?
Or: What the hell,
You’re God-damn useless!
She would say, you’re right.
She let them hit,
One blow at least….
Or they turned on each other,
Said: I told you!
If we’d only left town,
Like I said!
If we had only–
That’s the worst, she thought:
Their voices when they say,
If only.

Some were silent,
Showed her to the door, seemed
Almost too polite: we
Thank you for your help.
We appreciate…we thank you…
Then the door shuts, and
They stand alone. Some
Collapsed, if there were
Others there to take them,
Make them sit.
But those who had no help,
They stayed dry-eyed.
With her they asked
Dulled questions: how much
Time, should I give
Food or water, can’t you
Help his pain, he’s
Trying not to cry….

If they sat bowed 
With grief–their eyes
Done with this world, in
Agony for the relief
To leave–
Now and then, she’d
Touch: meant,
Stay with us.

Damn, a cigarette!
I’d sell my soul for it,
Louise thought.
Sell my soul….
And as for Riah–
Louise scanned her patient–
This one, her mistake,
She ran outside. She tried
To find him lost, she
Swallowed half the storm,
She wound up with no
Breath, half-dead,
Back home.
Home. God knows how.

And here I am,
Again. Called in:

Let them
Not talk to me. Pitiful

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