278. April 14, 3 a.m.

Louise’s head
Jerked up: Lord,
She had dozed!
“The lamp–God
Damn!” The candles
Out, three matches
Clutched damp in her 
Hand, she struck one,
Bending swiftly down.

A rasping:
Riah’s head was thrown back,
Chin in air, mouth
Open with tongue swollen,
Dusty, muscles of her face
Seized, head to neck–
A rattle from her chest
Stuck in her throat.

“Ow!” One match
Dropped, Louise seized
Others, filled the kerosene, hand
Flat to Riah’s breast, she felt
So much crap
In there, no room
For air”–rolled
Riah to her side,
And hit her,
Flat-palmed, sharply,
On the back.
“Choke it up.
Now choke it up.”

Gagging, Riah
Coughed black gummy
Clots that Louise
Wiped off with her skirt.
Despite the rasping,
Fluting tunes of air
Shot squeaking through–
“That’s right”–her hands
On Riah’s shoulders
Through the hacking, gurgling,
Then more black–
“That’s right.
Good girl.
That’s right.”

But more,
More than she’d feared.
And much remained.
The choking, pouring,
With no pause–
“Stop now.
Rest.” She
Rolled the body on its
Back, propped
On her knees.

The eyes fell open:
But they did not see.

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