August 3, 2014

Elise Liu

SHE RUNS FROM THE RIVER

spilling from her mouth, her nose,
her eyes, each hot slick pore

a wound secreted, her whole body running
from the count seven hundred thirty-

one in the living streets, shrouded
in motorbikes, in busfuls of strangers

who cry out her name, the many names
of God and that brief blameless river

in a country she has never seen,
where the water is so sweet, so cold

the living people fall to their knees
and drink.

Poets Respond
August 3, 2014

[download audio]

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Elise Liu: “I wrote this poem after reading about the Ebola patient smuggled out of the hospital after her diagnosis for a period of 24 hours before she turned herself in and died. Seven hundred and thirty have died so far, almost entirely in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Both in those countries, where the families of infected people are shunned, and in the US and Europe, where the media attention is almost exclusively focused on fear of a wider outbreak, the anguish of infected people and their families is rarely considered. I’ve just spent eighteen months as an aid worker in Africa, which I suspect is why this issue resonated with me. The ‘river’ here describes the symptoms of Ebola (often described as ‘a melting’ with bleeding from eyes, diarrhea, and tissue erosion), as well as the original Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for which the disease is named.” (www.eliseliu.com)