I. Her face was beaten and bloody. He picked the bone from her heart and washed her wounds with the names of saints. Mercifully, the birds lifted her, her bandages trailing like freed ribbons of light This isn’t a child’s game anymore, he sighed, not like playing doctor so he could get to see little Maxine’s fanny. Outside, the ambulance was waiting for him. “Crippled City,” he told the driver, “and step on it.” II. He jump-started the hearse, and drove downtown to look at the women. Their beauty raped the eye. Legs like wild stallions, hair whipped by the wind. It was too much. “Words are dead inside me,” he yelled. “I’m dead to the poems in my heart as ghosts are dead to flesh.” One woman shrugged and turned to her friend. Her eyes danced like white canaries and her smile said, “I remember when he was learning how to read. He used to steal the Crippled City school bus and come here to throw around the alphabet. Once I caught a Q on the nose.” III. She told him about her old lovers. The stories were the courses of a huge meal he knew he couldn’t finish. He chewed over each new name; the letters got stuck between his teeth. He want- ed her to stop. The salts of her kindness were making it worse. “Heartburn,” he mumbled, the flames licking at all his dry conceits, and lighting the way for the Crippled City Fire Department, which was used to false alarms.