Abuja

it was many years ago
I couldn’t tell you who I met

            except her:
            a tiny woman, shivering in her dim cave
            no headscarf

and even I wore one

            nothing but soiled green and yellow fabric
            twisted in an elaborate nest around her
            slight waist and legs

we stood in a swarm of slums
clay hives
built into the granite hills

            they rose up on either side of me
            row after row piled high like dying bees
            in midday’s bloated heat

she was old
and her naked chest bulged in odd places
and instead of two breasts there were two
scarlet craters
with pus oozing out

            her gaze locked on me
            my brittle benevolence
            wearing freshly washed clothes

and in that dark glitter I knew
my offering made of glass
was nothing compared to her own

            Tylenol
            is what I gave her for the pain
            before I returned to my soft, bleached bed
            outside the city

Katie Gleason is a social worker, counselor, poet and teacher living in Arizona. She is Master student of and workshop teacher for The Writers Studio Tucson. Her work has appeared in Gnarled Oak and O-Dark-Thirty, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now inhabits the desert with her husband and two greyhounds.

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