In this gently evocative poem, Regent alumnus Lance Odegard shows us the lovely in the unloveable, reminding us to be truly present in community.
She’d been flitting at the back and
along the sides of the congregation for weeks—
her calculated late arrivals working like camouflage.
At the back, on the tables, she tends her many plastic bags (the smaller bags inside the larger bags, each tied with strong, tidy knots)—the evidence of a quiet resolve, the gathering of a mobile nest.
She lives in layers, under multiple coats. She takes up less space than her body accounts for. Pressed flat, she has been thinned into near invisibility—turn her sideways and she might disappear.
We talk after the service, usually about my kids, sometimes about her week. She says most nights she sleeps in the library’s indoor lobby, sitting upright, perched in a chair. She whispers her words, not intending them to travel. They must be held like the small feathers my kids find at the park; one careless puff and they’re gone.
Months ago, I asked for her
name but she wouldn’t give it. She says she never tells anyone her name. Who or
what had turned it against her, I wondered—
and what is a person without a name?
Today, I had a name for her.
Her quiet eyes blinked and she asked, why did you give me that name?
Because I think you like music and you remind me of a bird.
It was a clumsy answer, and it didn’t tell the whole truth. But she perceives the smallest of intentions. Shifting her feet, she said, You can call me by that name.