Fine Lines

FA woman was being handcuffed. Shame. I approached the local grocery store wide and away from the police car, it with its passenger rear door open, hungry for another criminal heart.

The store shift manager stood cross-armed, triumphant while speaking to the senior police officer.

It was the only grocery for the poorest of Salem. Without transportation, one had to bus out and back. There was a limit to how much one could carry and how far one’s hands would grip.

Backpacks Must Be Left at Register

The shoplifting rate was unsustainable. The managers agreed to equal consequences for any theft, no matter how insignificant the cost or the age of the thief.

Diapers. This woman had attempted to filch diapers. Tears and a bowed head softened a hard exterior. Methamphetamine had robbed her body of fat, muscle and bone. Now devoid of pride, she wanted to be shoved in the waiting car just to be off display, out of judgement.

Meth users are difficult to gauge for age. I couldn’t guess if the diapers were for her children or someone else’s. It didn’t matter; the child in need would have to revert to the method of old cloth, rinse-wash-rinse repeat.

Other store employees might have glanced away. Another area might have given her opportunity to beg the money. A person in view of the crime in action—with a whisper and knowing nod—might have offered to gift the diapers outside, torn package and all.

Diapers, even they are stolen goods and criminal gain.

Filching, not robbery. It is a hazy area of heart.

©2014 Sandra R. Davidson

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Never Holding Up Traffic At the Lewis & Clark Bridge

“Never!”

She covered herself against the slough of her mother’s promises, all in the negative.

Home, never was.

Oh, oh. His muddy lies tilling a trench on the uphill. Then, “Never will hold that baby.”

Storm got thicker. Never did.

Poverty and hopelessness were taking turns at any gutter’s corner with fresh cardboard and permanent black ink. Room? Never.

“A hole was a hole was hole was a ho’.” They shared their laughter and kept their wallets closed. Whole? Never.

Her mother’s words were all she bore. What never was no more.

“Storming and the night’s going to be cold.”
“Supposed to be freezing rain by the time we get ho—there, there. A parking spot up—homeless, what they’re like walking dead. Tell her to get out the way.”

Not going to be dry today. River’s side won’t let her wash today.

‘Another waste shifting borders.’ Til she stepped into release.

Never felt before she hit the water. Never felt no more.

Not even at the wide open river into an emptying sea.

Never.

One More Resource

1545182_10152191887846289_277947775_n[1]I love the idea. Memories in six dimensions and a seventh as the whole perception. The photo shown releases the child of touch, which follows only vision as my primary sense.

One needn’t bother to beach comb on the west coast; the locals are out at or before dawn pulling in the shells, and even the sea-washed glass, sold to travelers. So I leave what I find.

So I will take photos and slide them into a frame such as this instead of the objects themselves. I don’t know.

Discovery is such a finite resource.

Poverty of Neglect

My husband seems to know what I need, even when I’m initially reluctant to participate. He took me for a drive last night, the summer season in blooms and greens.

The drive ended in tears for me. I saw a dog, for all purposes dead even if just abandoned and forgotten.

In the corner where two sides of a chain link fence met, he had frequented his exclusion enough to make a depression and kill all life around him. He lay unresponsive as we drove past. No change in expression, no upward glance or twitch of muscle.

Emotional neglect of an animal unfortunately is not a prosecutable crime.

In this time of not belonging, of placelessness where entire families and lone individuals have few corners in which to hide and many of those places unsafe, tears were all I had to offer in our society of the abandoned, forgotten and overlooked.

2012©Sandra Davidson

Nation of Promise

For sale signs randomly appeared, frantic in the wind, futilely waving down every passerby.

Then came a shuttering of windows, doors disappearing behind flats of plywood. Weeds shoved their way above untidy grass that grew without anyone to watch.

Whole neighborhoods emptied into garbage dumps, thrift stores and you-store-it spaces.

Local markets ran out of items for the depraved to steal and so closed their shops to those honest and without transportation.

The caring gathered the children, tried to comfort themselves, breaking the overwhelming truth of poverty into mirrored shards that reflected their confusion.

Town after city, more than seven years of bad luck followed.

Worn shoes and backpacks; buskers and beggars—the shopping cart symbol of the homeless now beyond even their reach. Five years on finds the lower class competing for safe and solitary places, slightly warmer or cooler or drier, to hide their obviousness from the rousters and their fear.

The middle class have closed their homes in favor of living their businesses 24 hours by 7 days a week, washing in the customer bathroom to retain some self-respect, or they’ve moved in with their parents, their children—anyone who has an extra few feet of floor space and could use a few dollars more in their crimped budget.

The Nation of Promise has fallen from a First World power to a First World problem. Hard work and loyalty are antiquated notions for believers of the coming crises. No one has the answer to ‘up’ or ‘out’ or restoring basic decency.

Did civilization begin this way? Or is it that once had, we cannot revert to simpler wants, to satisfying just our needs?

©2012 Sandra Davidson

On Parallels

He sat cross-legged on the cement, up against the brick façade between suites of a strip mall, a frozen yogurt shop on his right and a trash can on his left beside the entrance to an AT&T store. Fatigues, calling on war veteran sympathies. An off-white rucksack was drawn nearly into his lap.

At least six months unkempt, and the irony of a hair salon chain store three doors down with a $7.99 special. His black beard showed his habit of tugging it at the chin where it was shorter, more frazzled yet less dirty than his black hair.

People coming from his right could see him clearly, green camouflage useless against the urban backdrop. One woman diagonaled across the backsides of seven  parked cars to avoid eye contact.

I crossed straight to the sidewalk, past a Little Ceasar’s Pizza, the Great Clips salon, and the frozen yogurt shop. He seemed surprised that I saw him, was looking into his face. He furled and unfurled his corrugated cardboard sign, you know, with the black permanent marker message. All I could see was the briefness of the marker between the motions of his hands.

“Not a good time of year for this is it?”

“I really just need a cigarette….” He rambled on.

“I don’t smoke. I’m sorry.”

He mumbled quick, halting words, “Yeah, I should probably quit anyway, right….” He continued his monologue even as I entered the AT&T store.

I had drowned my cell phone two days prior.

The warmth and noise in the small space were startling. Nine employees, one who took my name and Sandra D. appeared on the far wall’s monitor. Five customers exited at once. I felt my bodily tension drop five points.

A man named Cory took care of all the details and escorted me to the door. We had a brief commentary on weather, long enough for two ladies from the Starbuck’s café next door to walk past us then veer from the sidewalk onto the pavement.

The homeless man’s query was now a statement of desperation. There was no recognition in his eyes that we had spoke on the subject minutes before. I repeated that I do not smoke.

His monologue became more rapid, incomprehensible. My inclination was to offer him a hair wash-and-cut in exchange for the pack of cigarettes he wanted.

Instead, I called my husband from the new cell phone and watched through the mirrors as the homeless man, rucksack in tow, checked the ash trays and the top layer inside every garbage container along the strip. I never did discover what his sign read.

On parallel streets out of the shopping center were two more homeless men with familiar cardboard signs, sitting on cold cement sidewalks.

©2012 Sandra Davidson