“It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.”—Susan Sontag
A Chinese girl stopped me in the street, seeking money
for a black man, ill with cholera, whose name
neither of us knew.
She showed me his photo. Sweat beaded down from his
temples to his throat. His lips, sand paper parched,
opened like a goldfish’s.
His eyes rolled back, half translucent, half milky. I had seen such eyes
once in The Exorcist, in which
the demon always won.
Doctors pulled up his tee with pearl white hands
to reveal his charcoal body, which, perhaps,
was no longer his after the camera click.
Outside the photo, the sun might be red, or black
as his tan. Perhaps it did not matter –
Colours were absent in eyes of the nearly dead.
“Please help Heidi people.” Her pledge hid the heat of Haiti
and her shame of mispronunciation.
She showed me the photo again, as if
she owned it
and the image in it,
the only evidence of poverty she ever had.