“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.

Retards and cripples have sex.

It’s true, and I know it’s true because I’m a cripple. I have cystic fibrosis, a chronic genetic disease, and several times I’ve had someone wrapped around my penis in one way or another. We who are disabled strive for a life as close to normal as our respective maladies allow. A normal part of life is sex. The beast with two backs, or rather, the beast with two backs but one of them suffered a severed nerve, became paraplegic and is now dragged along by the more able back. The horizontal rumba, or maybe more of a hokey pokey that requires a little sit down to catch breath between shaking it all about.

It was early in the morning.  Lori answered the phone and handed it to me.  My father’s voice.

“Uche…there’s been a terrible…”

“Uche…you should know…”

A pause as gruesome guesswork played through my mind.  I wanted to hear rather than continue imagining, but did I really want to hear?  He drew a constricted breath, and it came in a wave before his voice broke.

“Uche, Chika died tonight.  Imose died tonight.  Little Anya is just barely hanging on…”

Died.  Died.  Barely hanging on.

My nieces.