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Linda Is Her Name: a poem

October 9, 2008

Under the tree on the
edge of my yard, I spy
fresh beer can smashed
Miller Lite 24oz grande.

Oh Marcel, you’ve been
drinking again I say
to the great grey one
lounging in the grass.

He watches with interest
as I climb over the fallen pine
push my way through caster bean
and thick sticky cobwebs.

Following a trail of Cobras,
I find nestled amongst cascading
clusters of blue flowers
beloved by monarchs

face down in the mud
a day pack, green, new.
One of the neighbor kids
impatient with school or sibling

launched it off the hillside
I imagine as I examine it
heavy with books and rainwater
but it hasn’t rained in weeks.

It’s closed up snugly.
I squeeze the releases–
a mildewed black sweatshirt
Quicksilver embroidered.

Soft green silky panties
a hole ripped in the crotch.
Black t-shirt with a white Camel
insignia, folded and rolled.

Jeans jacket in good shape
Esprit with a leather collar, my size.
I pull these items out one by one
lay them on the ground.

Rummaging in the bottom of the pack
a small pink Vidal Sasson hairdryer
I could use this I think.
A pretty pink lace push-up bra

from Victoria’s Secret
going green from mold.
This too would fit.
Her make-up in a clear bag

which I don’t open but see
her Clinic lipstick, Estee Lauder
Resilience, her perfume Jontue
my fifth grade Christmas wish.

Tampons, deodorant, Aqua Net
Sleep Aid tablets, a bus ticket from
Santa Barbara to here, dated

Monday September 28, 10:31am.
The envelope reads
“Called home lately?”
I wonder what happened to her

what brought her and her belongings
into this barranca behind a clinic.
I worry about what could have
caused her to leave her things.

Inside a zippered pocket
a sealed ziplock bag
reveals DMV papers, court papers.
Linda is her name.

I smell the moistness
of autumn earth, fennel,
rotting clothes, cigarette
smoke, fresh eucalyptus.

Wind moves branches, clouds
overhead, the freeway is loud
but at night the ocean is louder.
Linda is her name.

I don’t know much about
legal papers, about
probation violations, about
jail grievance forms.

I am fortunate in that way.
I have a hard enough time
keeping up with parking tickets,
rehabilitating my credit.

I am tempted to escape
toss everything, leave behind
these forlorn objects, abandon
this vocabulary, hobo around

but it is a romantic notion mostly.
The reality is Linda’s–a stranger
going through my things wondering
what happened, wondering what to do.

c. by Gwendolyn Alley aka Art Predator

(Epilogue: I contacted the police and they brought Linda’s daypack to her in jail.)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2008 1:30 am

    Intriguing and detailed and a very tight circle at the end.

  2. October 10, 2008 4:56 am

    thank you Paul…

  3. October 13, 2008 3:10 pm

    I find myself engrossed in the scene as it is meticulously described, as if I, the reader, were ‘your’ hands and ‘your’ eyes. And I find myself wondering, too (the ending thus feels so real, concrete). Cheers.

  4. October 13, 2008 3:29 pm

    I was engrossed as well. A life in a backpack. Lives in the undercurrents. Lives all around us lived out of sight. Good for you for taking the extra step and returning the pack.

  5. October 13, 2008 4:21 pm

    Thank you, SL, and Rick. Returning the pack (even though friends discouraged me and said why bother) gave me some closure and writing it helped me process the event further. I was truly concerned about her and what may have happened to her since obviously all of her belongings were in that pack.

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