Santos

by Sally De Jesus

Wheeling down the hallway at the
Bronx VA hospital he has
slip-on
no socks
no lace
sneakers
going out to smoke again
his shallow cheeks grew deeper still
that winter
surrendering
finally
to the virus.
Santos helped hundreds to survive
the methadone twist off
crack pipe punch
he made it all so simple:
“Have another cup of coffee or I’ll be glad to get you a pistol to put in your mouth
 if giving up is what you want to do.”
 
In the end he laughed
Laughed from a hospital bed
laughed at an institution’s
relentless examinations of a body he was leaving.
 
They were nourished
They were  fed
They stumbled
and they were led
by a dying man.
I had a hard time
for a long time after
His coffin was carried down the Tolentine Church steps in the Bronx
surrounded by hundreds of survivors from St. Anne’s to St. Mark’s
Later by the river
angry and confused I shout:
“I DEMAND AN ANSWER!!
WHY SANTOS?!
WHY A SAVIOR?!”
 
Suddenly
An enormous gust of wind blew by me
It blew right through me
And there he was
There they all were
In every last wind-strewn leaf and bended branch
thousands of ripples on the river
swirling sacred whispers
breathing
back into the world
their saintly souls.

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