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“Still She Marches through Bataan”

by Terry Song

I fold clothes at the Salvation Army,
arrange men's shorts, the children's
pants and summer tops. I smooth
curtains stacked in bins behind the
yellow storefront glass. She walks
past. “Crazy Mary,” people
whisper, and I wonder,
what is her real name?

The old-timers in this town say
she once stood tall in her crisp
white, her shining hair
french-rolled beneath the
cap, the half-moon marks
of oval nails, her firm
fingers on their pulse.
They remember a cool hand
binding their wounds, soothing the
cheek of a fevered child.
Such a long time, they sigh,
long time since the war, when she
signed up with their boys and came
back to them this stranger, the starched
white crumpled to brown layered on
brown on her stooped frame, her ashen
face and the wild
brush of her steelwool hair
scratching the eyes of day
and her own black pits.

Now, her dirty nails
bit to the quick, her hand
clenches a stubby pencil while she
walks these streets with her
clipboard and its big black marks,
the angry rows of heavy lines as she cries,
“James Humphrey Hill, three thousand six,
Jesus Valdes, three thousand seven,”
and she flings her curses in the
street, her own strong hands
turned to sieves.

From the cash register, from the men's
pants people laugh.
“Crazy Mary,” they say
and turn their faces away
from what you bear,
the numbers of death,
the names
that fell too
quick on black soil.

~ ~ ~ ~

Terry Song is a poet who also teaches creative writing. Her family farms chiles, onions, and other crops in New Mexico.