Ketchup-stained rags droop
from a teenage waif in fingerless mittens
scrounging cold pucks of beef
buried beneath grease-laden fries
stuck to the Dumpster bottom.
White folk scurry past, noses tipped high,
unmask their contempt, snicker
smells like rotting garbage—
as if the girl is immune to their callous bigotry.
Anxious, self-esteem beaten from her youth
at the end of a 38-inch leather belt,
she glances away
though she longs to reach out,
longs for a simple nod and friendly smile,
for one person to acknowledge her value.
Unsafe in a jungle of grocery carts
and cardboard shelters,
she wanders hostile streets
shackled to a death sentence
thrust upon her by a crack-head rapist.
in the vortex of a winter river,
she listens to taunting voices only she can hear—
Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!
Mommy loves me mo-ore!
I’m gonna tell what you di-id!
Resting on the river’s bank,
arms and legs in rhythmic unison
sculpt angels in the snow powder
as she sings in off-key soprano—
What a friend I have in Jesus
all my sins and grief to bear.
her single thread to Sanity.
© Susan Parker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s written permission.