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If the Congolese woman cooking rice, crouching down, her dress furling curls of dust into the humid sky loses hope—

If when her khanga splits in two and they thrust an assault rifle where only her husband had ever nestled in—

If the whines, the whimpers, the hiccups, spring blossoms of hatred brighter than the patterns hugging her thighs cry—

If the cries escaping from her pursed, parched lips will never sing notes of forgiveness—

If her baby boy, frozen in fear, his toes in the mud outside the hut, holding an army jacket, colonial of the third rank, the man with his rifle inside mama, can’t forget—

Then hope, too, once was lost in the grid of Commerce, Bartlett and Division where the prostitutes stand and the Catholic schools, fatefully or ironically, cluster on the corner—

Then the deck of cards, slick with alcohol corners, which slipped from my fingers before choosing the suit, before the staircase, after the sofa—

Then the scavenger hunt, clothes on the floor, every third stair, the carpet, callous, knees meeting each step, is missing a clue, missing a map, missing a girl—

Then the jeans that are torn, ride the bus with no pants, will always be frayed, never sewn, never patched, no hope of beginning again.

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