Firsts

Location

Guatemala

I remember the lady remembering her first son

She taught him his first word, his first step turned run.

His first tear, how she’d stop to kiss it

But now he’s having his first hospital visit.

It started with his first job he’d acquired to help

out his mother, his brother, but he’d hurt himself.

$30 a week couldn’t repay

the work he did cleaning chemicals out all day.

His first doctor wanted to know

what could have caused the lung tumor in his x-ray to grow,

pushing over his heart as his mother’s broke.

He could hardly breathe, so the doctor spoke,

This job, these chemicals, our defenses are thin

why didn’t your son protect his skin?

We didn’t know the risks, she cried, it isn’t fair!

They provided no gloves, señor, no gloves to wear!

With lead in his heart, he led her to the hallway

Señorita, I’m sorry, about your son to say

Your 15-year old who is in so much pain

A month is all he has.  That’s all that remains.

Guatemala.  Twenty one four.

First day without him, she thinks, there’ll be many more.

She remembers his firsts—and those he didn’t have: kids, wife—

She didn’t know he’d be first to lose his life.

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