Salvation Army

by Dieu

I was nineteen or twenty
-Taking a break from art school
to “find myself”
and save some coin.

She was forty-something,
divorced,
a single mother.
She had the kind of
blonde hair that
couldn’t decide
between being straight
or curly,
between
orange or white.

She reminded me
of my mother
in her fragility
and the sadness
in her eyes;
in her gentle gestures
and smallness.

Her name was Marie.

We both sold
old candlesticks,
sad looking droopy chesterfields,
rhinestone earrings,
ceramic dolphins,
leather fringe jackets with shoulder pads,
5 dollar sweaters,
and all the
unwanted leftovers
of other people’s
lives.

Sometimes among this
banal
carnival
of refuse and glitter,
treasures were hidden.

Trendy college students,
grandmothers,
new immigrants,
people whose lives
were like quicksand,
or those just
wanting to save a dollar
came in through our doors.

Sometimes they really weren’t
there to buy anything.
They were earnest and lonely
and needed to talk.

They talked and talked
-Some coming everyday
or week.

I remember the transvestite
who asked me for fashion advice;
the mother whose house had
burnt down;
the dutiful son who
brought his grandmother
every Tuesday
-Senior’s Day
for the sales.

They were
strange
and beautiful
and beautiful in their strangeness.
But also ordinary.
Like the melancholy
of a familiar street at night,
that under stillness and
silence
and darkness
becomes
a geometry of shadow and light
and grace
and infinity.
And then the next morning
the garbage truck comes
and all is normal again.

I guess,
in everyone
there is the mundane
and the untouchable.

Like Marie.

Marie, I liked most of all.
For some reason
she reminded me
of a lost princess.
She had a tentative
way about her.
Quiet and soft,
with tired eyes,
and a pretty face.

Despite her stories
about the abusive ex,
the frustrated childhood
in a tiny town,
and the string of
part-time
dead-end jobs,
she had an air
of elegance
in her stillness.
Like she was waiting
for a moment to
happen.

Then one day,

I found out
she found
a better job.
And I was so happy.

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