Angels Of Death

By Eric Greinke

Back when I was a social worker
for developmentally disabled children,
it was not uncommon to lose a child,
often one whom I’d worked with for years.
They were children who breathed
through tubes, who ate through tubes.
Some could neither hear nor see.
Some were bright but confined by their bodies.
Some had normal bodies with mental prison cells.
Their life spans were usually short.

As workers, we used gallows humor
to deal with harsh realities.
It gave us some temporary relief.
A worker whom everybody loved,
sweet and cheerful, a beautiful woman
who never joined in the sick joking
had a long streak of infant deaths
on her overloaded caseload.
So, we called her the Angel Of Death.
The teasing went on for several weeks.

She put up a good show at first,
but then another child on her load died.
After that, she didn’t come in for a week.
Then, she quit and moved to Minnesota
to become the manager of a Hallmark shop.
Children continued to die off all our caseloads.
After the fourth year, I couldn’t handle it.
I would burst into tears at funerals,
sometimes using a whole box of tissues.
I finally fell away, imaginary wings broken.


Eric Greinke has two new Presa Press books scheduled for 2016, Poets In Review (a collection of forty-six reviews written from 1972 to the present) and Zen Duende – Collaborative Poems with Glenna Luschei. Recent work has appeared in the Aurorean, Delaware Poetry Review, Forge, Gargoyle, Home Planet News, Ibbetson Street, Main St. Rag, Poem, The Pedestal, So It Goes, Solo Novo and as a fine art broadside by Adastra Press. His poetry has found a large international audience.

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