Charles Evans

(Albania 2005)
It lay in the huddle of grey blocks
Where the mission stood, and litter spilled
Down the dirt track. It creaked in the rust
On the hinge of the gate that the simpleton
Opened for us, shone in the mud on the shoes
Of the nuns as we followed their steps.
When I turned in the iron bed to the wall
That night, the boxes stacked on the shelves above
I could read in the scrawl by the fading light:
Infected wound

It beat with the drum of the two blind men
Who moved down the street, and the crowd
Parted before them. It clung to the lips
Of the gypsy boy who pushed his hand
In the car, snarled with the one-eyed dog
That circled the shoes of the man who phoned.
And it gleamed in the eye of the legless man
Who begged in the square as he raised his stumps
From the dust and called his cry:
Infected wound

It ran in the walls of crooked bricks
Of the mountain huts, and old men trudged
In the rain. It scratched with the hoofs
Of the tethered cow that blocked the path
To the crest, and followed the pointing stick
Of the peasant girl who showed the way,
Touching the group who carried the sick child
To the church, and was there in the soft sigh
As the needle slid in the thin arm:
Infected wound

It was there as we left for the airport road
And lurched in the ruts, and the fan stirred
The dead air. It walked the tarmac
Smelling the oil and jumped in the dust
Of passing feet, clung to the plastic tag
Of the case declaring its right to leave.
And it watched from afar the waiting plane
Which I took as I turned and left at last
For the easy lies of the life I led:
Infected wound

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