The handcrafts in the display cases
are beyond my reach. All of them.
When I asked what size rug $200
would get me, I imagined a room-
sized patch if just one color. Quick
as wind, a knowing look passed
between the staff, preparing me
for the place mat I was shown.
Since then, I have kept to the streets,
up one side then the other,
nodding at the homeless on the benches
and taking only what is free—
the ochre walls, the cloudless sky,
last night’s snow dusting the hills.
The overflow from the roof gutters spatters
the sidewalks murky
before pooling in the streets for passing cars
to raise in chill spray.
At work, our breakroom talk
is about abstinence—
no caffeine, no alcohol—as if by refusing,
we could become immortal.
The homeless have abandoned the sodden park
for the foyer,
but each time they lay down, they are made
to rise again, company policy
allowing bodies upright, but not prone.
This isn’t a good city,
one repeats, hauling herself up. The security guard
pats her shoulder
and asks where she’d rather be. A coworker mentions
she’s just learned the word
lapidary, and I wonder how she managed
for thirty-one years with no way
to describe our collisions, the slurry of days
that tumbles us smooth.
Devon Balwit is a teacher, poet, parent, and dog-lover from Portland, OR. Her poems can be found in journals such as: Poets Reading the News; The Ekphrastic Review; Peacock Journal, Rattle, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Rat’s Ass Review, and more.