in a woman’s shelter, but creatures sniffling
on cranky cots, overloaded
her, a male guard at the gate.
With the warm blow-in of southern rains,
she moved to a nook in her one dry place.
She’s a wrung-out sponge, blotting up damp
in sweatshirts, tights, stretch pants,
one too-small jacket and the church-lady-knitted cap.
Relentless hours of hard rain erode
her gut-starch, her cross is choking tight.
One palm on the handle of her cart
keeps her from flowing.
Her fingerless glove swipes
a dripping nostril. Her tongue plugs
emptiness where a fist blew out a canine tooth.
Keep body and soul pasted together,
each wanders like her gray kitten.
She refuses to look at street kids’
brindled pit bulls.
What she cannot see will not bite.
She whispers to good people she once knew
and argues with the bad.
When sleep knocks her down, her night hag tiptoes
in, reigning hostess in a teetering house.
Both seldom know where the bathroom is,
never stare out windows and assume
that every shaky roof must fall.
She hears hag stories of lost sisters.
Now and then they trade clothes.
When morning comes, night hag hovers
behind her left shoulder, a burden-crushing fog
hangover of buzzing street light nights.
She hums and No One, day stalker,
Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet. For three years she served on Portland's Human Rights Comission and on a task force devoted to the use of sidewalks by people who were homeless. Her poetry has appeared in dozens of journals. Her chapbook Urban Wild -- about the interactions of wild creatures with urban environments recently came out from Finishing Line Press. This poem did appear in Street Roots -- a Portland street-tabloid dealing with issues of homelessness. triciaknoll.com.