Week after week,
the same time each Thursday
because change makes her crazy,
she and I sit together in her pain
and I do no more than believe her story.

She remembers when she was seven,
her mother would slap her hard
across the face, stinging her cheek,
the screech of her mother’s voice
like a winter’s branch on glass:
Stop telling such outrageous stories
about your father.

Outside a cold wind
whips at the new leaves on the trees,
April, but it might snow again.
I add a fresh log to the wood stove,
she shivers her failure
to wear the right clothes
for this weather. Spring
is supposed to be warm, she says.

I want her not to be
so goddamned damaged. I want
to be a better medicine woman
with magic to shape her sorrow
into something finer.
But I am as limited
as her possibilities.

Her tears fill my office.
I look for the high-water mark
on the white plaster above
my windows, above my diplomas,
almost to the ceiling, warning me
how long before this room and I
hold all the tragedy we can.