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Epidemiology:
doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000220661.49286.de
Poetry & Epidemiology

HIV NEEDS ASSESSMENT

Jacobstein, Roy

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(Reprinted with permission of the author from Prairie Schooner, Fall 2005; also to appear in the author's book, A Form of Optimism, University Press of New England, Oct. 2006)

Everywhere the faces, hair, limbs

are coal, obsidian, flawless black

sapphire; thus, the rare mzungu*

like me stands out the way those

remaining white moths once did

on industrialized London's trees.

A month fluttering The Warm Heart

of Africa's long length on this Needs

Assessment. We've found the needs

many. But let us not talk of that,

as the people do not. Focus instead

on the vivid oleander & limpid sky

that domes the arid volcanic hills,

its lapis mirrored in the uniforms

of the file of schoolgirls who stride

the side of the road. And when the talk,

matter-of-fact, beyond resigned, bears

left at the roundabout, glances upon

a cousin's funeral attended yesterday,

the two added children your colleague

from Lilongwe is now raising alone,

funeral venues for this weekend, just

sit there as the Project Vehicle propels

you onward to the next Site, past

the lone ads for toothpaste

& for study opportunity abroad,

& the many for caskets (“lightweight,

can be carried by one”), & say nothing.

—Roy Jacobstein

*Swahili for white person, literally “to travel around.” Cited Here...

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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