What I Meant to Say Is by Kimberly Clouse

        See her, the one pushing the cart
               down the street.

        She could be me,
               or what I mean to say is
        I could be her.

        I’ve lost everything,
               almost,
        except my sheer will
               not to lose my mind.

        I harbored a stubborn determination
              to live,
              to overcome,
              to set
                     an example for my son,
        lest my downfall
                     be his downfall.

        See her. I could be pushing that cart,
                      pushing
               brown plastic bags
               meant for fallen leaves

               but filled instead
               with dirty clothes,
               40 years of keeping diaries,
                      keeping secrets,
               stolen rescues that could
               have saved her,
                      the one
                             pushing the cart.
               I got lucky.

        I recovered
               from betrayal, banishment, burn out,
               loss, so much loss.

        See her, pushing the cart
               . . .finds a bench, finds
               a crusted half sandwich in the bin,
               pulls out a beaten dime novel, 
               bites and reads, shields her eyes,
               from the sun, bites and reads,
               sighs.
        Sighs so big you can see her chest
               rise
                      and
                             fall.

        A sparrow hops at her feet,
               chirps,
                      cocks its head.

        See her. She pinches off a crumb
               and tosses it to the bird.
        It eats. She pinches and tosses,
               pinches and tosses,
               takes a bite
                      and smiles.

About Kimberly Clouse
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