Entre los Cojos y los Mancos

–amidst the lame and the crippled–


Meandering through the hospital basement, stygian catacombs,
I feel my insides oscillate to and fro, oscillating lights overhead,
My body careening in a sea of nausea and delirium,
I embrace the cold stone walls for some support:
The forsaken feeling goes and comes, comes and goes…

My nostrils start to burn upon inhaling the fumes,
Stagnant vapors of rotting flesh and urine-soaked mattresses,
Groping around dimly lit, tortuous, putrid passageways,
I clench my flaming nose tightly and feel my way forward,
The forsaken feeling grows stronger, stronger it grows…

Dampened echoes carefully dart from crevice to crevice,
When the screams or muffled cries hit my ears, my heart
Capsizes, legs tottering, then stumbling, I hit the floor:
The funereal coolness of the pavement offers me some solace,
Respite: my mind takes a brief rest as the world fades away…

Awakening: the loathsome reality around me hits me like thunder.
Unseen floodgates unleash waves of rancor, madness, and anguish at me,
Though still prone on assuaging tiles, I rapidly accustom myself to the horror,
I make a quick glance upward to see human-like wraiths filling the halls ahead:
Eyes sunken in, ghostly pallor, noxious stench, disfigured bodies…

(I close my eyes, hopng these shadows will vaporize into nothingness,
That they were a figment of my lurid imagination, disproving
The nagging thought that somehow I had ended up in hell.)

…eyes open, I see that the spectres still linger, looking even more forlorn,
With my body like lead, I pick myself up in gradual, labored heaves,
Disappearing among these lost souls, letting the miasma sink in,
Capitulating and being overrun by the ubiquitous rot,
I, too, joing the roaming drove of the lame and the crippled.

Ron Maggiore, Chicago, Class of 2004