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Here is a poem that I wrote many winters ago. It appears in City of Hey Baby

November 29, 2020

Dead Woman Winter

Button found a dead body this

morning, a homeless woman. He said he had

met her before, a midget, someone you would

remember. I don’t know Button’s

real name, like, we haven’t worked

together long enough. And he doesn’t know

my nick name, like we haven’t known

each other long enough. I can’t know what

that feels like, to go from fretting

about small things like hands rough from the dry,

cold air to actually dying outside on the ground

behind the fire station, people in the city passing on foot,

or in cars and they don’t know that a shelterless

woman lies dying on the street

with no rescue in sight. All doors stay

locked and electricity flickers on and off.

Today, a child-woman came to

work for us. She said she just got engaged. 

At 19 years old, she must complete 43 hours

of public service for her crime. She said

she did something really bad but won’t say

what, and I don’t ask. She is writing

letters to someone in jail but not the one

she just got engaged to, who she says

her mother hates. Her boyfriend -fiancé,

who she is forbidden to see,  will take care

of her, she chirps, though right now

he lives with his parents. We find windows

for her to wash and floors to sweep–we don’t

want her to work outside in the killer cold,

this tough and vulnerable girl-woman.

Perched in a chair, she babbles, wants

to show me a picture on her phone of her

boyfriend, but I won’t look. I pass to her paper

and clipboard, tell her to list all the things she wanted

to be since a little girl. She litters the paper

with longing: veterinarian, police officer, nurse, baby-

sitter. I wonder how she went from

a baby girl with dreams to a woman who

just wants to be cared for, blankly. I tell her

to pick two careers and write the steps to get

there. To her, I am a torn book, discarded bifocals.

I don’t want her to become

the shunned girlfriend, a divorcee,

a lost wife, a roaming woman, wandering

behind a fire station on a bitter night, all doors

shut tight as the unpredictable

winds slip beneath her coat.

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