A Leper

by Cristina Legarda

Luke 5:12-16

I am not a different person
from the one I was before
but now that people see the signs – 
disfigurement, the crawl of death
all over me, the ugliness 
that makes them think I am a man
no longer, but a worm –
they want me crushed, 
out of sight, expelled.
I see the way they run when they see 
my tattered hood approaching,
as if I were some monster,
which I suppose I am.
The braver ones will scare me off
with booming voices, brooms,
and threats of chamber pots
they’d pour on me, anointing me
with the worst of themselves,
a baptism of piss and shit
to make sure I know 
how little I’m worth,
how unwelcome I am
even among my own family. 
All I want is to be well again,
to walk without hurting,
to recognize my face and hands.
I dream of perfect skin, a perfect body 
for my imperfect soul.
Someday, someday I think
I will wake up, and every scar will be gone.
But perhaps the answer is to burn it all;
perhaps then the monsters
will be satisfied.
If I set myself on fire 
will I be pure enough at last
to exist with them, side by side?

Cristina Legarda was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. She is now a practicing physician in Boston. Her work has appeared in America magazine, The DewdropDappled Things, PlainsongsFOLIORuminate, The Good Life Review, and others.

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