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The Drama of the Long Distance Runners  

--Dedicated to workers in the battered women's movement

I watch you in the court
House coffee shop.  Sitting next to
The angry young woman.  The one with
A newborn tied to her chest.  Fear
And despair criss-cross her back.  You

Listen to her insults.  She storms away.  You
Chase after her touch her
Cold shoulder, her tears on the brink.  You
Hand her a card your
Home number on it.  Her
Link to hope on
Some other day
Some other day.  Some

Other day she calls you
Her lawyer and sets a date and later
You rant about her she
Didn’t show up she
Didn’t even call.  At night you

Sip your bourbon and seven you
Empty your pockets you
Search for change you
Search for change you
Have to know:

Is she safe?  Is she still
Alive?  On your way home you

Check the back seat, look over your
Shoulder form your card to our
Door.  At midnight you
Search for keys you
Rattle the kitchen lock one more time before you
Climb the stairs weary
To bed.

I watch you
Her therapist prepare your
Testimony your
Expert psychological testimony  you
Review the research you
Draft the report with your
Clinical observations you
Substantiate your opinions
Bear witness to corroborate her
Reality with your colder, calmer
Objectivity.  You try to balance her
Accounts, reconcile your perceptions with
Those of your science and those of the law.

Sometimes you stare at the wall and you
Cry.  You sit there cradling her fate
So carefully in your learned, aging hands.

I swallow
The Sunday news with my coffee.
Yet another women killed by her
Husbandwhoshothimselftoo.  But
This one,

This one might have been mine,
This one,

Had I not been book up
And had to say no,

This one,

Had she had the money on Thursday
Instead of on Monday,

This one.  I enter the funeral
Home to see her dead body
Dressed like a bride in a box

This familiar stranger I
Talked to over the phone
Once.

This one

Whose Monday appointment Ia
Can now scratch from my book.  You
Sign the book at the funeral for this one
And open this book to write a poem for

This one.

Published in Thinking Women:  Introduction to Women’s Studies, Kendall-Hunt, 1995.

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