Volume 30, Number 2

a long walk in dry boots

(perhaps we look trusting—
we can’t help but feel overwhelmed

as she shares this sadness—
her new mother’s story,

post-partum depression,
on the run from an abusive husband,

her own mom keeping
the ten-day-old baby boy,

not just to avoid the man
but because she hasn’t been clean

long enough, and we, who listen,
can’t decipher who the warrants are against

and why she can only see her baby
on supervised visits. this is her first night away

and breast milk is drying.
she reveals the spiral of her life

and we keep handing her tissues.
she sits on her cot, struggles to remove

stylish boots from swollen feet.
she is twenty-seven, light eyeliner above brown eyes,

stands tall and could wear a business suit
though she’s now wearing jeans a bit tight in the waist

and an old college sweatshirt.
she describes a door she has been trying to close,

the husband who may or may not know
he has a son in this world,

a story we’ve been told not to enter
for who are we but one-night volunteers.

upon waking, she squeezes her feet
back into dry boots that follow

a direction she will walk
after our van drops her at the day center

for homeless women—
this mother’s day.)

—MaryEllen Talley