Exhaustion sets in by day’s end
when the old Pakistani woman
hobbles into my office.
Raccoon eyes underscore the pain
she feels in her left leg. More cavalier
than a Hippocratic disciple should be,
I pull up her djellaba* to expose
the dark, tumescent flesh of her calf
monogrammed by serpiginous veins.
I am too aggressive with the needles
that search for the source
of the white-hot poker lancinating
from ankle to groin, muscular infidelity.
She is stoic,
so well schooled in cruelty
that even I pretend not to see
the slight jiggle of her jaw, enough
to tell me I have crossed the border
of disrespect. Apocryphal as it may be,
this is what I have to give
at the end of the day, a certain anesthesia
for the provenance of pain, how
she stands after it is all over,
rearranges her covering, and leaves me
speechless with the tent of her hands.
*pronounced je-lab’: A long, hooded garment with full sleeves, worn especially in Muslim countries.