Opening to The Evening

For Sara

The chain jangles like wind chimes
in the emptiness
as my key springs the padlock open.
Ten more steps
with the tense stillness
that has waited all day in these hallways
following me down the stairs.

With one budge
a crack of sunlight
falls into the stairwell.
There is a moment motionless
as my eyes adjust,
as the bundles
are adjusted,
collected,
into women
who want to come in.
They shuffle past
my hand, stretched,
to hold the door open.
My hellos are somehow hollow.

I feel the day's stale silence
easing out of the entry
as late afternoon air breathes in
the evening rush hour.
I watch the employer and employed,
grinding out of the offices,
grate against the concrete corridors.
Their hurry scratches the silence
with which the sun pours down the streets,
with which certain silhouettes move out of a day,
swallowed in anonymity.
This side of the street
they emerge into women
with something on their minds.

As our eyes meet
recognition of what it is
to have reached a place to rest
reaches me.
Their silence replaces my own.
Patience passes
like a shadow
into me
as they pass into the building.

Amy Beth Cross lived with her daughter, Sara, in Effingham, Kansas, where she worked as a waitress when this poem appeared. This poem was written out of Cross' experience working in a shelter in Washington, D.C.

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