The Proper Number

A sizeable group of pigeons peck at crumbs in City Park on the afternoons she stares

into space from her bench, eyes damp with true wetness, that glassy look that

tells you she isn’t who she used to be, still isn’t who she could be,

and will never be who Glamor tells her she should be.

Least of all, she never became who she wanted to be.

The car parked in the yellow space across from her bench has electric windows,

the proper number of mirrors, and a working left front headlight. Bright yellow,

like the curb it’s parked next to, it burns into memory and all the windows lack cracks.

She doesn’t have one of those either, and the bread she tosses to the hungry birds came from

the deli down the street, three days old and marked to fifty-cents.

The bread she had for dinner came from the same loaf.

How do you tell the woman on a faded bench that you know her?

How do you tell the woman on a faded bench that things can get better?

How do you tell the woman on a faded bench that you’ve been the pigeon,

but you’ve also been the bread?

Published fall 2012, from the Open Window Review

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