Ally Malinenko

Radiation Day 15

Anna, the old Italian
is shouting again.
I realize she has little choice
as the television is so loud
but still she is shouting

Did you hear about the lady who died?

Anna starts so many stories with this sentence.
Dying ladies are a favorite topic of hers.

She was in a coma, Anna says
and she dreamed that Jesus
told her to wake up
and go get baptized.
And Jesus said, you’ll see me again in three hours.

Anna holds up three bony fingers.

So she wake up
and she tell her husband
and he call the priest

Right about here I start to wonder if this is a joke
and put down my book to listen,

So they get the priest
and the priest he baptizes her
and then,

Anna slaps her hands together
in three hours
she was dead!

Anna looks around the room,
can you believe it?

Jesus is Lord,
someone says
and I wonder if that was the punch line after all.

Wait a second, Betty says, from the corner,
why wasn’t she be baptized?

The new girl chimes in
sitting like a hen in the chair across from me saying
Oh many religions aren’t baptized, you know.

But between the three of them they can’t think of one
before Betty shouts, what about atheists?

They don’t believe in nothing, Anna says
and they nod.

How do they not believe in nothing, she asks the room

when Maria,
who usually doesn’t shut up
with non-sequiturs and things

says with her heavy Brooklyn accent
Well, to each their own. Whatever you gotta do to get through this life.

And for a moment they are all quiet
together in this room,
together in the pointlessness of this existence,
full of questions we should not ask
for we shall never have the answer
not even in death
it touches them just now,
I feel it
the unknowable unfathomable
darkness that stretches just past the stars

and then Betty says

Hey, anyone going to Bingo?

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