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by Megan Webster

    Humming to ranchera music on the radio,
    I pick up the paper and see
    they put down two more prisoners in Texas
    bringing the state's total
    to 232 executions since 1976.
    George W. smiling on campaign trail,
    his joke about fuzzy math.

    I think of George W.--
    pillar of the death penalty--
    his state's murder of James Beathard
    under clouds of doubt,
    the 2,000,000 behind bars--
    40% black--
    the mushrooming prison industry.

    On page 2, shriveled babies with tubes
    down their noses--
    36 million victims to AIDS or HIV,
    most of them in Africa
    Nelson Mandela pleading with a crowd
    not to shun the infected,
    to help them instead.
    I brush the babies off my mind,

    remember Madeleine
    who tested positive on arrival from Haiti
    but told no one.
    Three years later, she could no longer stand.
    Her mother took her home away
    from her junkie husband,
    hid her in the spare room,
    treated her with herbs until only
    bones outlined the bed cover.

    Pneumonia, the family said.
    She was born with a weak chest.


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