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No End

there was no end

drenched with dust, mile after mile
across desolate yellow fields
then by scrubby woodland paths
we trudged on and on until morning

at last we came to a wood building, painted green
with windows covered from the inside by gray cloth

entering, we stood in a dark entrance hall

it was warmer and drier there
but even there raindrops entered
falling on the splintered tiles one by one
like the tortured ticking of a broken clock

the hall filled slowly with patients

pushing through the crowd
i pressed my face against a sheepskin coat
which reeked of salted fish

and began to sleep

in a dream, grandfather chased me through a cornfield 
waving a razor strap

at last the bolt slipped, the door opened
mother pulled me into the waiting room
where the patients sat on benches motionless and silent

a boy came into the room walking on his hands
because he had no legs
look, mother, i said, a frog

be quiet, child, she admonished 

at a little window appeared sleepy a woman's face
saying come and give your names
     
the waiting patients
among them the funny legless boy
crowded around the window

of each the nurse asked the name, age
dates of illness and other questions

from mother's answer
i learned my name 
that i was seven years old
and i had been ill since birth

then through the waiting room walked the doctor 
in a white apron with a towel on his shoulder

passing the legless boy he paused
shrugged his shoulders
then said in a sing-song voice
you're a pestilence now aren't you

the reception began

the doctor sat in his room and called the patients
one by one 

now and then from the room 
came shrill cries
the sobs of children
the doctor's angry reprimands

don't howl i'm not murdering you

at last the doctor called my name
which i had only just learned

mother at first seemed dazed
as if waking from a dream

recovering, she took me by the hand 

in the doctor's room, he sat on a table
tapping with a little metal hammer a thick book

what is the matter, he asked
without looking at us

just then
through a little window in back
the filmy curtain parted

outside, a crimson sky was streaked with yellow clouds

and the sky grew angry
and the wind died
and the light grew dim

five or seven or ten days 
after mother left me there
i sat up on the hard bed 
causing the air to rush from my lungs

gasping for breath
i gazed dizzily around the tiny room
its walls of decaying wood painted green

there was a picture of a woman with a golden halo 
holding an infant in a brown blanket

a winged insect

a garden door of wood and glass 
secured with a simple latch

i rose and lighted on my feet and went to the door
i unlatched it and went outside

the baked red plain stretched as far as i could see
empty and lifeless except for the leafless black trees 
seeming to grasp in agony at the molten sky

shielding my face with my hands
i began to walk

and the sky grew angry
and the wind died
and the light grew dim

and then i saw the watchful moon
descending form the sky
cloaked in weeping, bleeding tears
across the blood red sky

Copyright © | Year Posted 2018




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