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Betty the Bag Lady

It was the 80’s, at the New York Port Authority,
and Betty the bag lady came in from the rain.
She found an empty seat along the wall,
and sat down among the other commuters.
She smiled to make herself less threatening,
revealing a tooth for every decade of her life.
But, my guess was that she should have more teeth.

Her hygiene showed her to be younger than she looked. 
(I can’t tell you how I noticed this.)

She wore filthy rags that once passed for clothes, 
all layered to suit the weather, 
and looked as if they were removed would cause her pain.

Those next to her moved, and got on line,
choosing to stand for half an hour, waiting for the bus.

People looked at her and saw what they hated,
about the city and themselves.
The filth and stench reminded them what should be done,
but the cost was too much.

So, Betty had to adapt because other options are out of her price range.
Grime became her nail polish and covered the bruises to hide her hardship.
To wash her face might force people to see and care.

Betty didn’t beg for change like the others, 
nor harass people for a smoke or light.
Betty pulled a cigarette out of an crushed Marlboro box, 
lit it, took a few drags, put it out, 
and returned it to the box.
My guess was that she found the smokes on the street, 
and for normalcy’s sake, she kept them in a box.

Betty pulled a bagel out of a paper bag, 
folded the sack and tucked it away into her bag, 
because it hasn’t used up its usefulness.

She opened the lid from a new container of fresh coffee,
and let the steam and aroma hit her in the face,
to remind herself that pleasures can still be bought for about a buck.
Perhaps, she’ll keep the container, or maybe hand it off to another so he or she 
could collect change.

Betty commented about helping the homeless, 
but giving anything was too much, 
while living on a $5.00 a day pension.
Many might think that it’s Betty’s choice, 
but her choices were taken from her long ago, 
and now she barely survives on what would starve a rat.

My look pitied her, but she didn’t seem to want it.
Many think she’s crazy, but I’m not so sure.
How crazy is it to have enough sense to come in from the rain and find a warm, 
quiet place to sit and eat?
This is all the dignity that Betty can afford, 
and she chose to show it, if people bothered to notice. 

Yet, Betty moved on, carrying her possessions by strong plastic straps.



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