Route 7 Review

Issue #  2015

 

MARK BRAZAITIS

 

I Failed to Find an Inoculation

 

 

 

None of it hardened me.

Not one of the thousand and seventy-five days

I spent in a poor town

in a poor country.

Not the amebas I housed in my stomach

on four occasions, little boxers

who gave me belly blows from within.

Not the three-hour climbs in rain into high mountains

or the cold nights I slept on a wooden bed with no mattress

in a darkness so profound I couldn’t see

my hand in front of my face.

Not the pat-downs of boy soldiers

or their careless assault rifles

pointed at my heart.

Not the bus crash that killed

my seven-year-old neighbor’s mother

or the three months afterward in which I heard,

over my courtyard wall,

the girl’s night-long cries.

 

If I’d acquired calluses on my heart,

my psyche, my soul,

they had softened to a tenderness so acute

everything that touched them

felt like fire.

Mark Brazaitis is the author of six books of fiction, including The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala, winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award, The Incurables: Stories, winner of the 2012 Richard Sullivan Prize and the 2013 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Prose, and Julia & Rodrigo, winner of the 2012 Gival Press Novel Award. His latest book, Truth Poker: Stories, won the 2014 Autumn House Press Fiction Competition. His book of poems, The Other Language, won the 2008 ABZ Poetry Prize.

Brazaitis’ writing has been featured on the Diane Rehm Show as well as on public radio in Cleveland, Iowa City, New York City, and Pittsburgh. A former Peace Corps Volunteer and technical trainer, he is a professor of English and the director of the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop at West Virginia University.

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