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The Crutches at Lourdes


They came here two by two, carrying their pilgrim
between them, asking one another in snide whispers

ahead and behind the foot, "Where does he think he's going?"
or, "How quickly she moves today, as if she didn't need us."

Left standing by the thousand now in the cool of the grotto,
they remember how ungratefully the lame heaved them here,

how thankless the miraculously cured were towards they
who carried them miles and years and never once complained

about being stuffed in an armpit all their lives. The canes
are even more morose: they have no companion to keep them

company when night falls and the healed have gone off weeping
under their own power. The only way these crutches stand

a chance to walk again is if a pilgrim who comes here is
not only not healed, but suffers more and more the lower

he lowers himself into the waters his daughters
claimed would cure him, so that he goes from merely

crippled to totally lame and, to go home, has to take up a pair
of crutches and leave behind his beloved swan-head cane.

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