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William Searches for the New Place

There in the new but yellow land,
there in the place where you had hoped
a new testimony would come to flourish,
you discovered instead all the old
joys and diseases of man . . . all the usual
humans here with you, again, 
yet again, in the new territory,
and you saw we will all only ever,
ever, remain human.

What else does a true man do
but confront?  What else
is the proper response to 
any disease but confrontation?

"o lord, there is a scourge
on all the proper limbs
of us poor humans, and I
can only watch this evil,
only place my hands
on their ills, only take
some of the disease
into my own then simply try
to find a place in my own 
human limb to forgive."

And in the end you see
another ill of us all
is the obscurity
of that prickly place
where we might ever 
come to forgive.

William Henry Albert Sims (1865-1942), medical doctor, minister and black man, was the only doctor, black or white, to stay in the town of Boley, Oklahoma territory, during the smallpox epidemic of 1918. At great risk to himself, he worked through the contagion, bringing relief to all he touched. Sims stated an angel had assured him his life would be lengthened for this service. However more pedestrian forces later afflicted him -- Sims was falsely charged but convicted in 1930, by some of his former white patients, with possession of illegal drugs.

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