The demented song of a woman
on the street the day one hundred
forty four people in this city
die of the same disease
Her voice rises and falls
between two notes
up and down the scale
two words unintelligible at first
She is unseen invisible out of sight
maybe no more out of her mind
than anyone else
except that she has taken herself
to a dark corner crying out
not for help
not for the sick and suffering
not for those who embrace or reject death
not for the healers
but for no one:
the two words — clear now —
that she’s been wailing to everyone.
Nicholas Christopher is the author of nine books of poems, most recently Crossing the Equator and On Jupiter Place, seven novels, and a book about film noir, Somewhere in the Night. He lives in New York City.
The poem will appear in TOGETHER IN A SUDDEN STRANGENESS: AMERICA’S POETS RESPOND TO THE PANDEMIC edited by Alice Quinn (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020).
Photo credit: Constance Christopher.