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Blanche Runningbear

To stave off headaches, my mother, née
Bronislava Ilivna Tonkonogia, for decades wore
a headband like a squaw’s, minus the feather.

With the set of her jaw, the scar on her forehead,
the look in her eyes of having crossed many waters,
she could have spoken Japanese or Cree.

It is her eighty-fourth year. She has just gotten her GED.
“I need to be in the hospital,” she says.
One hundred and sixty-something pounds,

the weight of thirty-five solitary winters, finally,
the cavalry arrives at Lenox Hill. Here are other
runningbears holding their forts: the homeless man

with silverfish refusing to be washed.
Oh angry runningbear, who once hunted
on Main Street in Hartford with the CP

for almost half a century never seeing a doctor,
now flushed from her lair
having to confess her humanness to enemies

like a badger in a foxhole this night
bites those including me who come to help her.
On the edge of her bed in emergency’s yellow light,
I hear them say, the doctors, the orderlies:
“She’s not sick. Just an old woman… ”