A Conscious Encounter - Pat McLean-Smith

On my way to work this morning

I saw her at the bus terminal

crowded in a corner


shielding herself

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


Immobilized

I strain to break away

but cannot.


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.

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