I would not have noticed her had our subway car not cleared of people
at Lexington Avenue.
She wore a tattered stocking cap.
She removed it and stuffed it into her jacket.
She held a grimy white bag between her legs.
She reached into it and pulled out half a doughnut.
That was when I noticed her shoes.
The uppers had split from the soles; she wrapped
her feet in newspaper and rags.
I thought, Mother, you need shoes.
I wondered if forty dollars would do.
I looked up and watched her untangle a lock of matted grey hair.
She reached into her bag and found a bobby pin.
She styled the loosened lock of hair into a bun
I had forty dollars.
But it was for vitamins; specifically, anti-oxidants.
My body is rusting faster than a wet Ford.
The crows feet around my eyes whispered: erase us; your happiness
is our absence.
I examined the old woman’s cracked and broken shoes; they
were useless for January in New York.
She closed her eyes, ready to savor a long warm ride.
Maybe she lives in the subway!
Like those people in Dark Days.
If she never leaves the subway she doesn’t need new shoes!
My crow’s-feet said yes!
But that can’t be right, I thought; an old woman, alone, with
nothing but a stale doughnut for dinner.
I felt myself stand and watched as I took two twenties out of my wallet.
Then I knelt and said, “Mother, you need shoes.”
She smiled at me and nodded in agreement.
“Will forty dollars do?”
“Yes,” she said, “God bless you.”
I smiled and returned to my seat, and listened as my crow’s-feet maliciously threatened to spread.
Rob Goldstein (c) 2014-2017 All Rights Reserved