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Without Looking

 Either at my friend's daughter's
sixteen-year-old body dumped
on the morgue slab, T-shirt
stuck fast to one ripped 
breast I identified quick, and then
got out of there

or at the old gentleman
with tubes in the living room, spittle
stained in his wispy 
beard, out of 
the corner of my eye I hardly
notice it, how

could I, drink in hand
at five-thirty, at the least
sign of pain one of us always itches
to turn away, another turns
over in sleep, groans
O, we who are so lucky

just to be able to
ignore, go back
quick, to our books, to
have books, even, how
difficult it is to look
hard and head
on has not been said

often enough, if prayer
is an act of attention
even to dropped stitches, blood
dangling beneath the lines, the
poem? I said,
what prepares us for what
will never save us?

Poem by Patricia Goedicke
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