I ask her, 

How many lives have you lived?

And she answers, 

One on each street corner 

of the Lower East Side. 

There’s a glint in her eye

that speaks 

of a childhood 

twirling under a loose fire hydrant, 

arms stretched like eagle wings,

like the water can hook under armpits

and carry her up, up

to a sky a little cooler 

than down on this 

sizzling cement; 

Mama called for me to grab my shoes, 

but I was already so far out the door. 

 

I see 

a hand-me-down armoire and 

a mirror lit all around the edges 

in little light bulbs, 

almost all bright like tiny stars, 

hair twisted up and pinned, 

a teen of smooth edges 

and fine lines, 

cardinal lipstick 

and chiffon skirts. 

 

Her eyes tell me of 

the boy she met 

between cup sizes 

who showed her 

how to use her hands 

in funny ways—

his mouth could make her feel 

like glitter, 

heated and glistening, 

spilling over edges—

it made up for all the other stuff. 

 

I saw a tumble downward, 

a heel caught in a sidewalk crack, 

and a panicked stagger past 

Seward Park 

and the new Whole Foods on East Houston, 

past the shiny apartments she can’t recognize, 

her arms outstretched 

for traction, 

and instead gathering seasons, 

stigma, 

something to roll 

that won’t hurt her back, 

and lives to replay 

behind lenses in her eyes 

as days pass, just as they do. 

 

I offer a smile, and a dollar, 

this woman who I know, 

and carry on home 

until I see her again 

tomorrow.