Woman on a Park Bench


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.


She sits
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.
She sits,
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,
that said:
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.

8 thoughts on “Woman on a Park Bench

  1. Rebecca Roberts

    I loved this poem. I too wonder what to do with my many emotions concerning the homeless. My brother was homeless for a time and spotted on a park bench by his daughter. My daughters boyfriend was homeless for 6 months through no fault of his own. I appreciate you addressing this difficult human experience through your poetry. Your topic tied in with the lesson I had in Sunday School asking “are we not all beggars?”

    Liked by 1 person


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