The Smell of Jamaica

a crazy woman living under a shack
foot eaten to the bone
by maggots
crawling, squirming, feasting,
keeping the wound clean,
keeping her alive.
somehow she made it
down the mountain
and sat, waiting
with her oranges
and a few crackers
stashed in a fold of her skirt.

no one there would even touch her
the clinic staff didn’t even want her in the ambulance
as they hid behind masks
fanning frantically in front of their faces.
driving wild on potholed dirt roads
they risked all our lives racing back
just to be rid of her.
because of her smell.
they hosed her down
outside the hospital
just shooting water at her
from as far away as possible
despite the sea breeze
keeping the air fresh.
and they thought she was crazy.

Steve Crossman, MD

Assistant Professor, Family Medicine, UICOM-Chicago