Poetry

April 11, 2019 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Andreea Popa photo

 

By

Tanushree Ghosh

 

 

 

The Freeway

 

 

The worn clothes and the cloudy stare

The assuring stench my eyes could smell

I am not you, will never be

My heart would swell

The words on your cardboard placard

Some of it fake, some of it real

Didn’t use to matter beyond the next light

So clichéd, so pathetic, your efforts

To have my nonexistent guilt crawl out with a few dollars

Used to seem

And when your words were blatantly honest

They’d offend me

Too cocky I would think to myself, and definitely not funny

You didn’t have the right to be funny

You didn’t have the right to ask for a blessing for me

From the same God who had left you

 

Or so I used to assume

For I couldn’t believe you could be blessed

And homeless

Peddling for change

By the Freeway

 

I am not feeding a drug habit

Or stupid decisions

I could say to myself

And leave you right there at the turn of 101

When you said you’d work for money

My mind used to linger some

Quickly revising the reassurances

All that I was believed to be true

This is America after all

With enough riches to save the world

So I never brought you along with me

Any further than a few blocks

I reserved my sleepless nights

For the consequences of good decisions and clean habits

For the worries of a loving life and hardworking jobs

While you had the streets for your follies

 

Or so I assumed

For I couldn’t believe you could be clean, or smart, or both,

And homeless

Peddling for change

By the Freeway

 

But I see you today, a loving mother

Trying to wave at me

With a child who didn’t look borrowed

Your husband got hurt on one sunny afternoon of your blissful life

And then, the opioids came

I still hold a job, but have no place to stay

You say I think as the light turns green

I see you in clean clothes

In your eighties

Trying to smile through your glasses

Asking for funeral expenses for your wife of a lifetime

She succumbed after a long battle but you still have to fight

To find a place for her

With only the streets left for you

But this is America I remind myself

And there was just now a tax break

 

I leave you where you are

Driving faster than usual

For I don’t want to believe you are who you are

Peddling for change

By the freeway

 

As I enter the home I still have

I find you across the street

You are younger

You are older

Why can’t I see the stench anymore? Or the tattoos? Or the puncture marks?

Something, anything, to judge you by

There was a sudden fire, you whisper through my panic

A job loss

Just one pay check missed

Still your fault, I shout at the top of my voice

You peek from the house next door

How did I miss that we have been neighbors for so long?

You couldn’t figure it out and you couldn’t find help

How could you have been so trusting? So dumb? I shut my eyes screaming

You look like me still, as I age a few years

You look like me still, as I become a few years younger

 

I throw a few dollars out at you in despair

Before you can get me to believe

That it can be me

Peddling for change

By the freeway

 

 

 

 

 

Tanushree Ghosh

Tanushree Ghosh works in Supply Chain Management in the Tech industry (she has a Ph.D in Chemistry from Cornell University and has worked at the Brookhaven National Laboratories) and is an author and activist in her spare time. She is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has published in several literary magazines and blogs. Her first anthology was selected into Oprah’s reading list 2.0 and her first single author manuscript is currently with her agent: Jennifer Lyons. She is also the founder of HerRights: a non profit working to catalyze action against gender violence. For more on her visit: www.thoughtsandrights.com.

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