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Poetry and Medicine
January 11, 2006

Isabel

Author Affiliations
 

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2006;295(2):139. doi:10.1001/jama.295.2.139

Resistant like rigor mortis, her hands scrunch
as I try to open palms to place a few coins,
enough for an empanada or adobo soup.
Resistant, she whispers gracias
and unlocks her fingers to accept my help—
a blind woman with a baby bundled in her lap.
Resistant, because she did not choose to be poor
in this crowded Peruvian city, sleeping
on steps in the winter's dry cold.
Resistant at first, she spoke slowly, saying
her life had ended after the Shining Path
burned her fields and alpacas
in the high altitude farms of Cancapa:
flaming animals ran screeching
into the night, under the blackened sky.
Resistant, she did not tell me what I later learned,
that her husband's neck was sliced
by the rusted machete of his brother,
who continued by cutting out her eyes.
Resistant for the sake of the baby
cradled in the folds of her skirts,
her orphaned grandson. Silent in the night,
she cowers in this shopkeeper's door,
her days spent selling the fruit of the cactus
that leaves her fingers pricked and swollen,
stained by the red nectar of sweet slices.

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