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Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Alms
Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate
Betsy Sholl, the former poet laureate of our state, writes that this week’s poem “came out of an actual experience at the main post office in Portland,” where she heard a little voice that grew larger as she thought about it.
Alms by Betsy Sholl
Small as a fly bump, the little voice behind me calling Miss, Miss, wanted a dollar, maybe for food as she saidin that voice of mist, so plaintive and soft it could have come from inside my own head, a notch below whisper, voice of pocket lint, frayed button hole,voice of God going gnat small. I shivered and stopped. I looked for the source, and there it was again, Miss, so slightit wobbled moth-like on air, up from a bare trash-filled recess beside the post office steps. Yes, I gave the dollar. But I had sevenin my wallet, so clearly that voice wasn’t small enough, still someone else’s sorrow, easy to brush off,till later that night, in bed, I heard it again, smaller—miss, miss, little fly strafe troubling sleep—not a name at all, but a failure, a lack, a lost chance.
Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2014 Betsy Sholl. Reprinted from Otherwise Unseeable, University of Wisconsin Press, 2014, by permission of Betsy Sholl. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.