The following poem was written in honor of a colorful bag lady who once graced our town with her presence. Her name was Polly and though she owned no vehicle, she managed to be seen all over town. She told me, once, about all her cats and how she loved them. Her other passion was cigarettes. Her resilience fascinated me as she spent her days returning grocery carts left in the parking lots around town and talking to anyone who would listen.
Though the entire poem is written in a traditional rhyme scheme, it only seems tedious and humdrum until the man in the story meets a bag lady in the park. Her presence changes everything including the man’s entire perspective on life itself.
He looked to the sky with his questions,
Released them like doves at a wake.
He looked to the pundits who toyed with the news, but
Their mortar rounds skewed the debate.
He looked to the campus for knowledge,
Mortgaged his life to the muse.
He looked to the sea for recovery and rest
Yet she pushed him right back toward the dunes.
He looked to his parents for guidance
To go where they never had been.
He looked to his kids for incentives
To do what meant nothing to them.
He looked to the forests that rushed past his view
Thinking, “Someday, those woods’ll be mine.”
Yet, someday, those woods might not even be there
And in fear he felt so rushed for time.
He looked to the birds for distraction
From worries he just didn’t need.
He looked to the park bench to slow the world down
And a bag lady gave him some seed.
“Thank you,” he said, trying not to sound trite
As he scattered seeds ‘round like a child.
And then, “What a great day!” and he meant every word!
“You better believe it,” she smiled.
“You live around here?” he asked awkwardly.
Her smile had revealed missing teeth.
“Yep. I got me a place ‘ere on Second Street South.
The dang pipes froze up ‘oh last week.
I come here to get me away from the crowds.
‘Course, I ain’t complainin’ none though.
Why, I gets me a good meal least once’t ever’ week
And these pigeons here need me. Ya’ know?”
“Hi, Polly!” another came greeting. They hugged,
And with chirping for music, they danced.
Why, the old “soft shoe” stage never had it so good.
The man watched in wonder, entranced.
“How could they possibly know how to laugh,
With all of their pain and rejection?
Yet, maybe it’s laughter that acclimates love
And maybe it’s love that protects them.”
He gave her his scarf and some money to spend,
And somehow he felt much less hurried.
See, he’d met the “Queen of the Park” on that day.
He’d forgotten just why he’d been worried.
She was part of the earth, while he’d merely used it.
Sure. She lacked the Park Avenue grammar.
Yet, he envied the pigeons their caretaker friend,
Who’d adorned Central Park with such glamour.