Many years ago whilst ambling happily through Central Park in New York City, my gambol’s attention was diverted by an old woman sitting silent and still on a weathered park bench. A woman without a home. A woman without a family. A woman without belonging. Homeless. I felt overwhelming emotions: sadness, pity, regret, helplessness, compassion. I wished for her happiness. I had no idea what to do or say. I did and said nothing. Even today, I don’t know what questions to ask about homelessness, let alone what the answers are. This poem is about that encounter, about the woman on the park bench, but also about me, about you, about the human identity and experience. My next several poems will feature my few experiences with the homeless, our brothers and sisters, humans that have been written off.
WOMAN ON A PARK BENCH
on a park bench—
rusting iron, splintered wood—
tattered hat askew on unkempt gray-streaked hair;
cotton and wool dripping threads;
too-big shoes cold against bare feet.
hunched and silent and still;
a tiny, unnoticed atoll spotting a vast, smeary world;
a universe within.
Once there were dreams and smiles at dreaming the dreams.
But they wilted and died,
the struggle ending long ago,
yielding to forces that depleted, that destroyed,
You are nothing;
You don’t matter;
No one cares.
And so it is.
And so she sits:
finished looking for life;
not waiting for death.
She lives because she does not die.