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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.

Nic ChristopherNicholas 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). 

Nic says he wrote this poem on a day when a woman was “wailing on a street corner I could not see from my window.  She went on for hours while I was at my desk, and at some point I pushed aside the work I was involved in and wrote the poem on a lined pad with my fountain pen.” 
Nic Christopher 2Photo credit: Constance Christopher.

 

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