she held that spoon

between her splay of fingers

curled around

the lunch she was

trying to direct into her mouth.

she missed often

and her chin held the

remnants of the stew

splattered across her chest and neck,

the four food groups

I was told,

more contorted than her lips,

looking like a riot

garnished on the windows

of a sad café

It had been a hard day for her.

That morning she had angered

while playing cards

and was not able to exactly say

what trembled in her frame.

Often her world is missed in translation.

We asked that she be kinder

and she said (we think) that she was sorry

and her brows curled into a mimic of regret.

She has a saw-like rasp

coming from more than her mouth.

She spews words like spit,

the syllables gargled with her eyes steady

to see who (if any) could comprehend

the ravaged music of her throat.

She pointed to herself

"I," I said and she nodded

"want," she said and I repeated

"to," I said when I finally understood

"die," she shouted

tears breaking from her eyes.

I bit my cheeks to keep from crying

It was only my third day on the job.


I touched her shoulder and said how sorry I was she felt so bad.

I wanted to explain that I had felt

that call at times

to dark and quiet

but all I could say was that tomorrow

I was sure

would hold a brighter lamp.


I wiped her chin as the salt dried on her cheeks

and cut her food finer for the next bite.


soon she smiled and there was

chain-saw laughter

when a friend teased her about her temper

and hoped that blackened

eyes would not prevail

if any stood against her.

--- Nilus Stryker