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West Nile Walk


photo by Abbas, Iranian and French, born 1944, full member 1995

The most beautiful part of today so far
Was seeing a father teach his son
To ride a bike.
The boy bit his lip.
The man smiled.
The woman watching them
Started to cry because
She hadn’t anticipated finding such a moment.
She didn’t wake up and say
Today I will be Yerma,
But it kept happening.
Like the dog growling
On the other side of the fence as she passed–
Something in her stomach she can’t see,
Loud. Mean. It takes beautiful things and
Turns them into an ache that can’t be helped
By any herb. No kind words. No prayers. No
Shrink. No woman with cards and dim lights
Can make her forget the impossible:
Four crows chasing a bird of prey as though
They had talons. An ant missed by her foot
Who carried three times its weight. A baby
Who will learn to balance seven years from
Three years from now when she will be
Financially stable, all shit together, capable
Of caring for a family. This
Is not where she should be–broke
In the middle of the street
Bare feet searching for water
And heart pining for home
That is not in the house
A few blocks away–there is
A lab practical tomorrow, a test
In three days, and a resume
That should have been typed
Last week. Last week: a museum
Of Magnum photographs. She took pictures
Of the pictures and now in her phone
Is Father and son at Lake Michigan,
Pilgrimage at a holy shrine where pilgrims
Wear a crown made of flowers,

Woman holding child, Woman holding child,
Woman holding child. She didn’t see the sign
That said no photography until the end, which
Was just as well because she wouldn’t have listened
Anyway. She didn’t use her flash. No harm done
To the pictures. Just a little pain for her
Pocket to distract from the mosquitoes whose
Bites weren’t felt until much later–
At home in bed scratching legs full of
Red marks. Red mark against him–that man
She met yesterday with the same woman
Three years and had too many fears for marriage–
Woman wants man, woman wants child,
Man runs away. No room for old-school
Expectations. So many people afraid today
Of teaching boy who bites lip to ride bike.

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