Ethel’s Sestina and Company’s Coming

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Ethel’s Sestina and Company’s Coming

by Patricia Smith
Southern Cultures, Vol. 20, No. 3: Southern Waters

"I trust his every word. Herbert my son. I believe him when he says help gon' come . . ."

Ethel Freeman’s body sat for days in her wheelchair outside the New Orleans Convention Center. Her son Herbert, who had assured his mother that help was on the way, was forced to leave her there once she died.

Gon’ be obedient in this here chair,
gon’ bide my time, fanning against this sun.
I ask my boy, and all he says is Wait.
He wipes my brow with steam, says I should sleep.
I trust his every word. Herbert my son.
I believe him when he says help gon’ come.