Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Under Her Coat"

This poem came out of the July 2016 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] mdlbear. It also fills the "begging" square in my 7-16-16 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Under Her Coat"


There was a woman who came through
Bluehill a few times a year, staying for
a week or two and then moving on.

Turq had seen her before,
but he paid her no mind until
she found him begging in the rain
and dropped a cash card into
his battered plastic cup.

That was unusual enough for
Turq to scurry into the nearest store
and buy a granola bar just so he could
check the balance on the card.

It read $97.05 remaining.

Turq wondered what the heck
anyone was doing just wandering
around Bluehill handing out
hundred-dollar cards.

In particular, he worried that
she might be trying to buy
the kind of favors that people
might not come back from.

He tried to tail her,
but she was fast, and as
furtive as any street person.

The word on the street was
good, too, and Turq knew that
it was difficult to fake.

People said she was good for
a meal, if you were hungry;
a coat, if you were cold; and
even (in whispers) a hug,
if you were lonely.

So Turq watched,
but did not interfere.

She was tall, and she always
wore a coat of dark green canvas
whose bulk hid her shape and
fell to her ankles, its deep hood
lined with some brindled fur.

She often carried bags
in her hands or slung over
an elbow, reaching into them
to pass out loaves of bread and
bundles of fruit, sweaters or
gloves or good winter hats.

The cash cards she produced
from under her coat, hidden pockets
full of secret treasure that somehow
no one had managed to pick.

She caught up with Turq again
when he was least expecting it,
his cup as empty as his belly since
he wasn't very good at begging,
and gave him a loaf of bread
worked into a round braid and
sweet with honey and apples.

Hunched in her coat, she might not
meet the ordinary beauty standards, but
Turq found kindness a beauty all its own.

One day he managed to score
a few hours of work with some of
the teens who did odd jobs at
the True Blue Bikeshare.

They were cleaning up garbage
and graffiti under the bridges where
the homeless people camped out and
the young troublemakers liked to go for
a packet of drugs or a quick screw.

They used jumbo bags
to hold all the garbage, and
sorted out what could be recycled
as they went along.

They used cans of nontoxic solvent
and handfuls of rags to wipe the graffiti
off of the walls and the pillars.

The bridges where Mill Creek
ran near the industrial park were
the worst, because traffic was low
and the water rarely rose far up
the banks of gravel and clay.

Turq noticed that whenever they found
a pile of something other than loose papers
or empty pop bottles, everyone looked to him
to determine whether it was uninhabited,
unwanted, and actually safe to touch.

If it was safe, then he started picking it up
and they joined in; if it wasn't, then
he shook his head and moved on,
and they followed him.

The best of the bridges, in
Turq's opinion, was the one that
had a park bench hidden under it, where
today they found a local girl camped out.

Turq knew her, a little, to look at
but not to speak with, and he thought
that she had washed out of college and
then gotten stranded here as a result.

Without a word, she got up and helped them
clear away the trash around her little camp,
and when that was done, she sat back down.

One of the boys gave her a few dollars,
and she thanked him with a fleeting smile.
Turq knew that she rarely spoke.

The sun was going down, turning
the trees to bronze and the water to gold,
but they were not quite done cleaning up
the far side of the bridge there.

The solvent smelled of oranges
and did a pretty good job of taking
the crude scribbles off of the concrete.

One line, written in silver paint,
stubbornly refused to wash away:
Some say, under her coat she has wings.

Even without a name, Turq knew who it must be.

He wondered about the strange woman
and who she was and where she came from --
and what she was and why she was here --
even as he picked up the last of the litter
and chanced to look down.

There at the edge of the bridge,
pointing into the brisk wintering wind,
Turq found a mark like two huge fans
spread over the dry brown dust.

It looked like the one he had seen where
an owl took off after catching a mouse.

Gently Turq reached out and wiped away
the marks with the toe of his boot, then
walked back toward the group.

Some things did not need to be seen
in order to be believed.

* * *

Notes:

Hallah (Haley Kramer) -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and long brown hair. She also has wings, barred in brown on cream like an owl. Her parents kicked her out of home for being a freak. She survived on the street, but encountered the usual problems of sexual assault and drug abuse. Eventually Hallah began finding jobs as a scout or courier because of her wings, which paid much better. She managed to get off the street, but she still feels sensitive about it and spends a lot of her resources taking care of the homeless. She often travels around for her work, and uses that to reach people all around Missouri.
Origin: Her wings emerged with puberty, and she learned to fly about a year later.
Uniform: Hallah hides her wings under loose, shapeless clothing when she is not flying. She usually wears a long coat of heavy green canvas with a fur-lined hood.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Expert (+4) Generosity, Expert (+4) Reputation on the Street, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Rocky Past
Powers: Good (+2) Flight
Motivation: To take care of the poor and downtrodden.

* * *

"One of my friends told me about some graffiti he saw on a bridge: "Some say, under her coat she has wings." Whoever that unknown graffiti artist was, inspired this song. Thank you."
-- header for "Wings" by Cat Faber

Homelessness is a widespread problem spanning various subgroups. There are national and community measures to end homelessness. You can see that Terramagne-America is a step ahead by including current or former homeless people in their efforts, which avoids a lot of mistakes that inexperienced residents would otherwise make. Here are some ways that individuals can help too.

Respect is vital for homeless people, but often more privileged people violate their rights. So there's a movement toward a Homeless Bill of Rights. These may protect such rights as freedom of movement and privacy, or include a necessity clause to prevent charging people for crimes when they had no alternative. Know how to respect poor and homeless people.

Homeless people have a culture of their own, which includes fanciful or inspiring stories about spirits, fairies, angels, the afterlife, and other ideas.

Challah is a sweet, rich bread which may be enhanced by adding such things as honey and apples. It is commonly braided.

See the Bluehill bridges with graffiti and a bench.

Birds can leave impressions in dust, mud, snow, or other soft materials when landing or taking off. Here are unlabeled and labeled impressions of a hawk catching a vole, and a snowy owl catching a rabbit.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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