On my way to work this morning
I saw her at the bus terminal
crowded in a corner
from a world that looks down on her
with both empathy and apathy.
I rush pass dismissing her.
As I glance through the diner window
where I stop for coffee
she is there…
scurrying through the garbage
for any amount of nourishment that will take her
from this moment to the next.
I stare at her resentful
that I have allowed myself to acknowledge her.
Quickly, I head for work
knowing that the events of the day
will force her from my mind.
and before I know it, I am on my way home.
When I descend from the bus
there she is again
standing on the corner
holding her history in one hand
while begging for the future with the other.
As I approach her
I thumb through my purse
In search of enough money
that will both relieve my conscious
and send her on her way
I am determined not to look at her
even as I feel her eyes surround me
I strain to break away
Unwillingly, I lift my head to face her
and her eyes like magnets
pull me into her
and I ache from the pain of her oppression.
She releases me from my torment
with the words
“Thank you ma’am”
turns and walks away
dragging my soul behind her.
I stand there outside of myself
ashamed and afraid.
Ashamed that I have become indifferent to her
and afraid that everything I feel today…
I will have forgotten tomorrow.
Pat McLean-Smith, is a performance poet and teaching artist. She is the author of two books of poetry, “Poetry Pulls Pain,” and “Healing Her Hurts.” She is the recipient of several awards, including 1st place for the Sonia Sanchez/Audre Lorde Poetry Competition, 2nd place for Judith Stark Creative Writing Competition at Community College of Philadelphia. The 2005 and 2012 Art and Change Award and the 2006 Transformation Award from the Leeway Foundation. Her poetry can be found in numerous publications, anthologies, newspapers.