Letter to a Benefactor
My spine is curved like an elephant’s trunk
And filled with an abundant fluid that reeks
Of sickness, and thrice daily the priests
Bathe it first in saltwater, then rosemary and lavender.
The penitents are the first to receive the blessing
By gazing at my crippled spine through the parted
Curtains. I think: I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive.
But I worry one day my spine will mend
And I will lose the penitents, the sick, the poor,
The priests. But I know, in my heart, it will never happen.
Is it truly a blessing from God? Or is it a curse?
I know when the sun crosses over a tile,
Chipped in one corner, that the first bath is over,
I know the mumbled syllables of the litany
Intoned by the priests and their followers, I know
The particular fragrance of the oils, and the sound
Of my moaning. But more than this I cannot say
With authority. I am not equipped. When the sun
Completes its circuit, and the new moon rises
In its place, my cell is plunged in darkness more profound
Than any other, and my form is lost, I worry.
To be reassembled into what? This worry keeps me
Since it is not possible to be more abhorred.