she held that spoon
between her splay of fingers
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
when a friend teased her about her temper
and hoped that blackened
eyes would not prevail
if any stood against her.
— Nilus Stryker