I am a small ugly woman
whom God, for reasons known only to him,
decided to persecute with holiness.
I have attempted to lose myself
all my life, but he who never forgets
held mirrors up everywhere I turned.
Now I’ve died and they have found the “darkness”
I knew since Calcutta, the absence that sat
like an ugly child on my chest.
I became their narrow fingers reaching out
from filth, their stench no water
could rinse away, their deaths held too tightly
for too long. I became their blank eyes
and finally saw everything. Yet I
knelt beside them dry-eyed and tireless.
I prayed when I had nothing left
but words. I brought back rags
in cardboard boxes that would not burn.
I became an old woman, tired
beyond sleeping. The dead had become
my arms, my breasts, my dry tears.
I was alone. I wished for certainty
more than life. I had neither.
Only old hopes from old stories.
When I tried to pray, ashes flew
around my face. The sign of the cross
blessed my shallow breathing.
Then the old priest blessed me instead.
I was too stubborn to run into the light.
I will outwit my lover a little longer,
I said to the thin air inside my mind.
I thought I heard another one outside the door,
raised my arms toward him, and was gone.