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The End of Illness is the End of Metaphor


ISSUE:  Autumn 2003
—Joseph Brodsky

She was the pebble in the soldier’s shoe,
hunger that hardens into bone.
She was the comet;

see the crater it left behind.
The warning too and the one
cloud over a sunstroked sea.

She was “anaesthesia,” “theosophist,”
“perambulator” and other words
that tangled the tongue.

She was the baby of a large man
in the body of a tiny woman.
Her will was a watermelon

wedged into a garden hose.
She’d always be like this,
always disagreeable, always alone.

Then one fine morning, a sliver of hope:
she watched a tooth disintegrate
inside a glass of Coke.

Drink this, someone said,
and thus commenced her dream:
The stone began to crumble,

to melt like a bullion cube.
For a pebble could be made into soup,
enough for her

and the soldier,
the entire village, even. No one
would ever go hungry again. The End.

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