Litost

By Mary Strong Jackson

she’d caught sight of it
in shadows like a mouse
along the baseboards

but this wanted her to see
and scurried less
seemed larger than before
she felt an unveiling coming
a reckoning
so she held a heavy blanket
one moonlit night and caught it

it had body and weight
afraid to uncover it
but feeling she must
she laid the heavy thing on the bed
unwrapped it at a snail’s speed
making her bones ache with effort
felt a clawing under her skin

once unveiled
it spelled out
parts of her
soot, grime, boils,
and blood
road rash and ringworms

she folded the blanket
around it
held it against her
offered warm tea
and rubbed it with oil
to soften each part that protruded

then she whispered as she rocked it,
“Mistakes can be rounded away from sharpness.
There will be no more dark scurrying.”

“Litost” from the Czech language.
The closest definition is a state of
agony and torment created by the
sudden sight of one’s own misery.