By Mary McKSchmidt
Like the colorful ribbon of a balloon
partially buried in the sand,
or the aluminum edging of a beer can
tossed in the soft of a season’s first snow,
the flash of purple on a park bench
causes me to break stride, turn back,
pick up the unfamiliar card with overlapping
circles of orange and red.
Through the mist I see white letters
right of center—"D E B I T”--
and imagine a person reaching into a pocket
to buy gas, milk, a last-minute gift,
casually fingering the lining,
panicking when there is nothing.
Searching the other pocket. Nothing.
Looking everywhere. Nothing.
Lost in the chilling dampness of despair.
I call the number on the back of the card,
learn replacements take seven days,
follow a triage of prompts that all end
Raised in a small town in a different era,
I stop by the police station. The door is locked.
Sign says closed for the weekend.
Frozen fingers trace letters where a name
should appear— “B I O L I F E D O N O R”--
and I remember sitting on a bench with a mother
watching her eight-year-old boy running,
how she no longer feared a fall, scraped knee,
a bleed that might lead to his death,
how grateful she was for donors.
I drive to the plasma center
hoping the card reaches the pocket
of one gifting Christmas every day.
I am told to destroy the card.
I call them “story poems”—poems I write to noodle through an unusual encounter or a bizarre experience. Examples include: To Somebody’s Father (6/14/22), Trying to Make Sense of Things (7/13/22), No Leisurely Stroll (8/15/2022), The Holiday Card (2/1//23).
This poem started out as a story poem but morphed into a “poem’s story”—meaning it wrote itself. I prefer happy endings, but the poem forced truth at every turn. It placed a mirror in front of an era that makes human connection so difficult, often impossible. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to benches—sitting on them, reading stories about them, adding more benches to parks and senior living spaces. Benches create community. And community is essential to one’s health. At least it is essential to mine.
Author, Poet, Photographer
From briefcase to pen, paper and camera, one woman's journey to influence how we care for the environment, our seniors, each other.
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The Journey 2012-2023