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Hannah AhnJune 27, 2024

You are like a leopard, pacing against the lines
of my poetry, straining against the cages.
The city is slick with blood. I want to wash
your feet so someone will touch you and it will
not be the nurses, bringing their bright needles,
not the doctors, who touch your bandages
and neglect the rest of you. The stutter of staccato
fills the outside window, and I think how at night,
every door opens, my dreams unlatch every key.
But awake, the answers are uneasy. I labor over
the lame and the deaf, the crippled and the weak.
In the beginning, I thought your suffering could
be simplified to a hostage negotiation: I would chalk
all the old boyhood wrongs, equations on a blackboard,
God would come and sheepishly erase the answers.

But tonight I pray for smaller mercies, for
warmer nights. You roll on your back, face
blanched white. The scene sweats into the blank
canvas of your back, the wracked ruins of this
room. But never mind this: there is so little time.
So you offer advice: cut off the
old resentments, patch what can be mended.
I closed the prayer book so long ago, I closed
my eyes to that world of suffering, in which pain
became something more like equilibrium.
And what can I give you? I know less of this
life, lesser of the next. In my girlhood they
told us stories of unconditional love: and they
began always with a price. I could retrace the old
steps, touch the old scars that don’t lift, though they
are all ruins now. So let me wash you, I beg instead, and
let me dry you with my hair, let us make
use of our poor bodies, the ones that
we share, the only thing I can give back to you,
oh, let me rub your aching soles withs
frankincense and myrrh, this, the only
thing that separates us from animals, our want for
tenderness for the sake of pointless tenderness,
the act of love performed for its lonely self,
a light moored on the vast ocean of grief.

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