When I think of debts (other than those to family), I think first of libraries and librarians – God bless them every one. A college professor for more than 30 years, I taught first at Oregon State and since 1992 at Linfield College. Five books of poems carry my name on their spines, including an Oregon Book Award winner (1989) and the most recent two from Jessie Lendennie’s Salmon Poetry, which, delightfully, has a mailing address without a single number in it.
Who She Was or Where She Was Going I Don’t Know
In this afternoon’s low half-shadow,
resolve and bravery passed me on the street –
a woman older than I am, elderly,
her back C curved, one foot a drag on the other,
as sideways she moved as she held in both her hands
– as one might bear a birthday cake, candles lit –
a package wrapped in a child's newsprint drawings
and ribboned with a red bow that shook as her hands shook,
as though she carried beyond weight
the sole fact and proof between affection and oblivion.
The sidewalk narrowed. I stepped aside. If there was traffic
I missed it – squirrels on a wire, scrub jays,
a crow hectoring pigeons, I missed them all.
Her eyes looked into mine. My head nodded.
My stumbling mouth said good hello. She smiled.
I dared not look back.
©2015 Lex Runciman