This poem was written by Virginia Hall, retired clergy from Trinity Episcopal Church, in response to an encounter she had with a person experiencing homelessness in Bloomington.
Walking down Kirkwood
eyes peeled ahead to my destination
in a big hall
on a big organ.
When suddenly out of the corner of my eye
I see her
familiar yet distant.
Her eyes sparkled as we connected
skin softened yet taught holding untold stories.
Where had she been
since we last met
shouldering her overstuffed back pack
while I checked her into the homeless shelter?
Yes, it had been a year
but we knew each other
grasping for names and then…
remembering….April, yes, it was April.
Remembering the nightly check-in
the morning wake up call
sleepily stripping blankets and pillow cases
coffee, sticky donuts, packets of oatmeal
and oranges, if we were lucky.
Remembering how April always engaged
with volunteer staff
offering to help the other timid and fearful guests.
And then the daily goodbyes, oh, so early.
7a.m. It’s time to go, ready or not.
Where had she been all year?
California, of course. I should have guessed.
More friendly to her needs
more agreeable weather
Redding, Chico, Marysville
communities of care…off the beaten path
treatment for glaucoma…new sight!
But now, she has returned
in search of family
to a shelter with women
the Mary’s and Martha’s of this world
searching for a place, a safe place
until spring arrives.
What will it be?
a heart, a family
or someone’s tattered couch?
Waiting for spring. I remember April
a woman of hope
a woman of joy
a woman of courage
April for strength
against the storms of life
making a home in her heart for the hurts of others.
April, April…it is GOOD to see you.
a deep hug…take care. I’ll be seeing you.
And so I walk on
against the wind and rain
to the big hall
with the big organ
abruptly stopped by a sign: Concert cancelled.
Sad for a moment… and then I remember, I remember…
I have already heard the most beautiful concert of all.