Sidewalk Sally sashays down the block.
She insists on wearing woolen, open-toed house slippers.
She says they make her feel like Ginger Rogers.
But, they offer up no protection from the elements.
Soiled, marmalade in color, and quite smelly.
When you take a good look at her feet,
you see savaged nail beds and scaly red flakes.
She likes to joke with me,
asking when we’re going to get pedicures together.
I see her often, mostly every day.
She holds court at the bus stop.
She seems happily homeless, if there is such a thing.
Sometimes she has a brown paper bag peeking from a bottomless pocket in her thrift store trench coat.
It’s her armor from the dragons haunting her voyage through this life.
Whether it’s thirty-two degrees, or eighty-five degrees,
Sidewalk Sally stays in character.
Man does she sweat.
When she asks me for money,
I buy her a coffee and a breakfast sandwich.
She tells me she would spend the night with me for seventy-five bucks.
I tell her I have a girlfriend, and we’re going steady.
She laughs a hearty cackle,
sounding like the rattling chains binding horses to a Conestoga Wagon.
She shows me her swollen leg as encouragement.
The white sweat pants she’s wearing seem painted on,
and are migrating to more of a butterscotch shade.
One time, a friend of mine that drives a trolley from Old Towne Trolley Tours,
told me that he saw Sidewalk Sally defecating on the stairs at City Hall,
while he was giving a tour.
“And there’s Sidewalk Sally, relieving herself, next to the Samuel Adams Statue.”
He said she was bent over, head between legs,
sweatpants around ankles, shooting poops in an arc.
I didn’t believe him, but I believed him.
I sort of miss Sidewalk Sally when she’s not there.
A pang of worry creeps into my heart.
Inevitably, she returns with a cast on her hand,
or bandages on her head, or bare-footed, sans woolen house slippers.
On occasion, Sally asks me for a smoke.
I don’t smoke.
Then she pulls one out and lights it,
and immediately blows the smoke in my face,
waiting for my reaction.
I think she likes me because I’m from Chicago.
Sidewalk Sally escaped from Chicago,
but is reticent to explain the circumstances.
She just sashays down the street.
Scuffling those slippers when she has them,
And talking to whoever will listen.
A very special thanks to the invisible among us. I promise, I see you.
40/40: Summer Poem Slam-a-bam is a project in which people have joined me for 40 days and 40 nights of on-demand poetry. They have submitted the concepts, ideas, and subjects; I’ve done the rest.