The Way of the World

by Mark Chmiel

Our friends organized a potluck dinner
A small gathering to welcome back Rebecca

Who’d been in Uganda for ten months
Doing therapy and social work

With scores of people
Who had survived the civil war

(In the 80s she worked
With Guatemala refugees

In the 90s she spent
Hundreds of hours with the Bosnians

In the 00s she was well acquainted
With the people who had fled Afghanistan)

After dinner the 12 of us
Moved to the spacious living room

It was no surprise to me
That Bella Levenshteyn was chatting with Henry Nagler

(She had told me she had long had
An ardent affinity for the elderly)

Rebecca showed us the paintings
She had brought home with her

She arranged them in sequence
On two couches

The paintings told a story
Of how the people suffered

In one little area of Uganda
That was hell on earth

The painter showed what had happened:
The guerrillas appeared

Youths were kidnapped
Forced to carry the packs of soldiers

The government took to bombing
Their guerrilla enemies and the civilians in the way

Rebecca told us when the painter first showed his work to her
She responded, “I can’t show them this back home…

You can’t end it here …
Do more! There has to be hope!”

So the painter took his time
Painted two more scenes

Of people returning to the villages
And rebuilding what had been destroyed

Rebecca knew Americans are delicate
We don’t like to get too upset

By such depictions devoid of somewhat happy endings
As the Uganda holocaust

Some of us kicked into problem-solving mode
Ideas arose for fund-raising

Two long hours later as we were leaving
Charlie said as we stepped outside

“Aren’t the Cubs doing great?
What a season it’s been!”

–from novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

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