The hungry who cling to the side
of bleak mountains, their stories
carried by black birds whose cries
are empty of promise.
The pale-faced couple, in the midst
of a swamp, too old to start again,
too tired. The small child in a bed,
bald, with epic eyes. The continuum
collapses into measures of time, each
hour holy in its unfolding,
each minute a shallow breath.

At the perimeter, the onlookers gaze,
curious, a little thrilled, as if proximity
might sling a net of protection. Some
may toss in something – money or spare coat.
Some may recognize there is only a tissue
of separation. Some may edge backwards
without a word. Some may spread
a clabber of lies. The forsaken continue
until they can’t, their skin cold,
their words swallowed,
their tenacious grasp released.

Mercedes Lawry has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Rhino, Nimrod, Poetry East, Seattle Review, and others. She’s also published fiction and humor as well as stories and poems for children. Among the honors she’s received are awards from the Seattle Arts Commission, Hugo House, and Artist Trust. She’s been a Jack Straw Writer, held a residency at Hedgebrook and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her chapbook, There are Crows in My Blood, was published by Pudding House Press in 2007 and another chapbook, Happy Darkness, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2011. She lives in Seattle.

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