108 – NaPoWriMo #19

Dear Reader,

That’s not an error – I did write #18 already but have set it to private as it contains information that I am not at liberty to share. As recompense, this one’s not password protected.Thanks for your devoted readership, and I hope you enjoy this post.



There was a woman riding the 108
with a folder full of Social Security information,
which she shows me, as we sit waiting for the bus,
and she asks for bus fare,
which I would not have myself had I not bought a 15-day pass five days ago,
but I give her thirty-one cents
and she proceeds to recall to me her battle today,
fighting with the government
to prove her husband has died –
she has no Death Certificate because his father took care of the funerary arrangements
and still weeps when one mentions his late son.

She still smiles broadly after furrowing her brow in
telling me that her son is in jail
and that maybe he wouldn’t be if his dad was around;
she recites “morbid” as a mantra, recalling her ordeal that day.

And I am distracted with my own business
and I do not linger to o much for her conversation
when the bus comes and we ride it separately –
taking for myself a seat up the stairs as she sits in a handicap space,
condemning herself.

And I should have been a better ear for her;
but I was coiled in my own life unfolding in the framework of messages whipping back and forth and Blessed be Amanda for her understanding and may It endow some of Amanda’s on me;
but I sat there, green messages popping into existence and I only looked up to briefly note where she sat, where the bus was on the route.

And it dawned on me that this could be her routine,
riding the rails and talking tragedy to whomever will listen,
but it aches me that the best I could do was offer a half-given ear,
even if it was just how she got her jollies –
what would it have cost me but some quickness in the affirmations of love in a trying spot,
something I didn’t need anyway, for its knowing –
and worse, to think it real and consider that I was the highlight of her day,
someone who believed briefly in her story and shared his own loss with her –
which I did more out of matter-of-fact and in an off-handed attempt to empathize –
knowing I was because she took a moment, smiling broadly and with tears in her eyes,
to say goodbye and to thank me for listening, that it was nice meeting me.

And I smiled back and wished her luck, a go-to in Vegas,
and turned back to my conversation, and its resolution,
and it was not until I was home that I even remembered her –
I never learned:

Her name – though it was readily readable on her paperwork;
her husband’s name – which might have been as well;
her son’s name – whom she loved dearly, you could tell;
how her husband died – though she might not have been able to say yet;
how her son was arrested – which she might not have discussed;
how long she was unemployed for – which she admitted, to that and to taking odd-jobs, making $10 for babysitting and wanting to watch more kids but more than three and you need a license and insurance and so on.

Each iota of her that I can remember is a treasure;
her overbite, her hairy armpits, her skin beaten by the sun,
the broad way she smiled, the brown of her eyes,
the black tank-top she wore, her khaki shorts, her Marlboro cigarettes;
that I might look at myself in the mirror and still see a human being,
because I was tied up in the knots of me,
but still had the gumption for some remembrance and to be passingly kind.


One response to “108 – NaPoWriMo #19

  1. Marvelous narration and reflection here. Without your turning the mirror on the reader, the reader is invited to look in it, too–the poem is that compelling.

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