Roses

I knew a lady who sat outside
a mut hut concession, opposite 
a marsh where breezes blew 
palm fragrance in her face, 
to wait for alms. She leaned 
against a neem shade tree 
whose roots exhausted soil. 
I think she kept a garden of her own, 
although her fingers may have been 
misshaped for tilling earth. 
At any rate, she needed change 
for pharmacy antibiotics; 
passing on my way to church, 
I’d drop coins into her hands.

I remember Sunday mornings 
spent in a baobab’s shade, 
clapping and signing of converts, 
a young man telling gospel, 
but most of all, a leper-lady 
whose fingers curled with leprosy 
like soft peeled bark. Her 
fingers could not feel my hand 
or anything that came their way. 
I wish I had the healing gift. 
All I could do was spare pennies 
for those outstretched hands, 
roses where no thorns are.

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