Amen

for Sister Eileen

The memory is of January:
black snow and ice,
the high sagging steps
into Amos House
and my taking them
two by two
past the huddle of gray figures, and everywhere
the suffocating smell
of fried fish.

Then of standing beside Sister
in my fleecy boots,
in my long white wind-breaker,
and handing her a trash bag of old clothing—
and some money.

The memory is of distance,
of the distance between us:
her wet hands
patting her butcher's apron,
and her pale smile
when I offered to help
(having an hour to spend).

I have since learned
that failure pursued her,
that she fell
and rose and ran
and fell again
until the day of her victory.

I have felt comforted
by that.

Betsy Lincoln was a poet and former English instructor at Rhode Island Community College living in Wickford, Rhode Island when this poem appeared.

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