Her skin is tough, and wrinkled
like she is  some Mayan woman living
on top of the Andes exposed to wind and sun.
Her arms swing in great half circles,
as she walks along the side of the road,
her cracked lips muttering prayers, or rants,
or maybe spells summoning the loose change
out of the pockets of those of us she
stops in a Stripes parking lot as
we emerge from our cars to buy tacos,
or as we sit on a park bench watching birds.
“Can I have some change? I’m goin’ to K-Mart
to buy some hamburger meat” is her
usual line, and she says it with one
arm extended to you, yellow nails
on her fingers, the palm of her hand cracked,
like an old cement sidewalk.
She walks the same route every day,
as constant and as regular as the tide
or a sunrise, and her walk is metronome steady,
almost unworldly. She moves not sweating
in the heat of the sun, powered by
her madness, her addictions, her fear.
To see her it to feel the world tilt for a moment,
the battles roiling in her brain are visible
in her eyes and so fierce is her need,
it draws you to her like a black hole.
In another age, she would have inspired legends.
She is walking the roads looking for her lover
they would say. She can tell fortunes, but went
mad from looking too far into the future
they would tell their children. You must
give her a quarter or she will spit into the
dust on your car tires causing them to go
flat they would whisper. She might have
been a priestess, instead of the lady at
Stripes who accepts your change while
she looks at the other world she sees
just over your shoulder

Michael Gerleman is a teacher in South Texas.
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