April Ojeda

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Conversations on 16th & Guadalupe

The mad woman on the sidewalk glares,
What you looking at me for?
I ain’t no man’s sugar,
Ain’t no mama’s darling girl neither.
And I ain’t got no name,
Least not one I’ll tell you about.
So don’t act like you care
Waitin’ on your ride off this corner.

Lest you got some change
To give an old woman?
See my eyes
They ain’t what they used to be.
And I got this pain,
And I got to pay this doctor
To help me out…
You kidding me?! A twenty?
Dollar Tree, here I come.

A tiny, crumpled thing
Camps out near my coffee stop,
Wants to know, You in church?
She grins, broad and toothless.
One thing for sure,
Jesus coming back real soon
Cause this place is a mess.

I ask, Why so many homeless here?
She shrugs. Austin is a kind city.

A bus driver bellows from her open door,
Hey you! I turn.
Go check on that lady in the wheelchair.
She sick? She dead?
I go where she points.
To the sleeping wheelchair lady
On the corner of 16th and Guadalupe:
Are you OK?
It’s a sweltering June afternoon,
And your shelter blanket
Slips down to show the
Worn ink spread across your chest.
Better days, maybe.

I should’ve asked your name.
I wanted to. But you looked
Right through me, drifting
On low tides of a sunless plain.

One nod, two for good measure
And I left you on that corner.
And I thought,
I don’t deserve my name.

Life breaks all us darling girls,
We got that in common.
She cold snaps, or slow roasts
Heart, limb, hope, sanity
Then saunters toward the red sunrise
To wash her hands of broken glass.

But my people glued the pieces back
And taught me how to hide the cracks
And the worth of a name.
Maybe you got people?
Maybe they miss you too,
Or maybe they did this to you.

April Ojeda is a teacher and writer from the Oklahoma Panhandle. She lives in a fast-spinning world, so she writes poetry as a means of prayer and of untangling the threads of daily life. She lives with her family in West Texas and finds her greatest inspiration in the outdoors.

Photo credit: “Planning the day inside her head” by psiconauta, via Flickr.com.

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