Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30, 2013n First draft poem: Joanne


Part I:

My shopping cart is filled to the brim
with desires and fancies:
sourdough slices, shaved parmesan
root beer and Kettle chips
raspberries and plums
goat cheese, granola
I grab Advil and Tums.

Bisquik and Nestles Quik
brown eggs and sea salt
Free ranging chickens  
peppercorns to be ground
I grab a sweet treat as I’m standing in line
If I walk away from these bags, nothing changes for me
I still will be fine

Part II:

Joanne’s shopping cart holds her worldly belongings
Full, overflowing, and yet nothing much in tow
Folded cardboard, a sweater
three rough but clean blankets
sheets of plastic and tarps for the wind and the rain
A gallon of water and a few magazines
Recyclables gathered until enough to reclaim

A box full of what
she really must carry
from hard bench to alley or on a good day, 
an alcove with shade and a breeze
but she still wears a cap and a jacket
though it’s eighty degrees

Part III:

Each Sunday she makes her home
in the same garden courtyard
at my office building
she lies in the sun, reading,
her sunglasses stay on so I can’t see her eyes
Her unlined face mocha, could be 40 or 65
humming a low tune I can’t recognize

I am ashamed to be surprised she is lucid, well-spoken
possessed of a quiet dignity and grace
that allows me small kindnesses -
a key to the bathroom
and pillows, which she returns to my suite
with a thank you note - and though she gets food stamps
I wonder when she next will eat

I give her some chocolate and my Sunday paper
and later I ask what she’s reading about
The new health care law, she says
she still can’t afford it
hopes she won’t get in trouble, that no one will tell
she’ll just do without doctors
and try to stay well


Joanne has no home.

But Joanne has a name.

Joanne is my sister.

And Joanne is my shame.

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