Her face was
beaten and bloody.
He picked the
bone from her
heart and washed
her wounds with
the names of
saints. Mercifully,
the birds lifted
her, her bandages
trailing like freed
ribbons of light
This isn’t a child’s
game anymore, he
sighed, not like
playing doctor so
he could get to see
little Maxine’s
fanny. Outside,
the ambulance
was waiting for
him. “Crippled
City,” he told the
driver, “and step
on it.”


He jump-started
the hearse, and
drove downtown
to look at the
women. Their
beauty raped the
eye. Legs like
wild stallions,
hair whipped by
the wind. It was
too much. “Words
are dead inside
me,” he yelled.
“I’m dead to the
poems in my
heart as ghosts
are dead to flesh.”
One woman
shrugged and
turned to her
friend. Her eyes
danced like white
canaries and her
smile said, “I
remember when
he was learning
how to read. He
used to steal the
Crippled City
school bus and
come here to
throw around the
alphabet. Once I
caught a Q on the


She told him
about her old
lovers. The stories
were the courses
of a huge meal he
knew he couldn’t
finish. He chewed
over each new
name; the letters
got stuck between
his teeth. He want­-
ed her to stop.
The salts of her
kindness were
making it worse.
“Heartburn,” he
mumbled, the
flames licking at
all his dry conceits,
and lighting the
way for the
Crippled City
Fire Department,
which was used
to false alarms.