“A Poem for Safe Keeping,” “Convergence,” and “Morning”

“A Poem for Safe Keeping,” “Convergence,” and “Morning”

Photo by Emma Renly on Unsplash

A Poem for Safe Keeping

for Lori

because I told you

how the homeless woman

preferred over a stranger’s

offer of food, water, money

just a moment of conversation

to confirm that she exists

because I told you

a story of serendipity

how Margaret at ninety-one

loses house, hearth to grown children

who abandon her to assisted-living

doctors, nurses, staff, to Gabriel

a volunteer visitor who she comes to see

as an only son to whom she gives a key

with directions for finding

her rainy-day reserve—enough

for his baby’s urgent surgery

his young family’s first home

because I was in your pocket

at the infusion center

heartening you to cross

its double-doored threshold

not knowing what chemo takes

but knowing what you’ll keep

faith—a leap into confident

expectation your body will heal

your spirit won’t break

the substance of promises kept

able to lift your feet from any

tangle of prickly cares, thorny worries

the evidence of tender prayer

ready to catch you in tough talons

less your heels dash against

any day’s trouble

because I’m an old friend

full of what’s lovely, kind, and true

you pulled me out for solace, peace

relief, so sit with me a while

and think on these things


for Phil


life storms rising relentless

I clutch a bottle’s neck to anchor

myself, but the deeper the cup, then mug

the more ground beneath my feet

gives way to loss—my job, wife

my daughter barely two, my home

soon just a house—a lender’s

foreclosure like Damocles’

sword hanging by a tail hair

over its walls of fisted holes—

but finally, at bottle’s bottom

some brother’s counsel, resurface

reconcile your family, slow-walks

me to a subway ride from shelter

to church that offers a program

a way to keep from drowning, a safe

way to break my self-inflicted mooring


January wind beats my naked chest

chases me off the street to a subway

seat paid for with coins someone

tossed in my coffee, skin cracked

pansy red, hair filthy, long, dry

a dead man’s—framing a face

just as lifeless—I know what folks

see as they move every-which-a-way

from me—failure, clock-run-out

on opportunity—knowing nothing

of my walk due to necessity? to shame?

nothing of my daughter’s tumoral brain

taking her away five winters now

my wife broken who could not stay

medical expenses leaving us bereft

me—homeless these past three years

shirtless since last evening while

I slept—until he sees me


a wilted dandelion of a fellow

spent of its wispy white globe

its stem bare from the waist up

shivers into a seat while folks

shlep distances from him

but he’s close enough for me

to make short time of shedding

my NBA jacket, 5-spot off the street

my flannel shirt, help him put them on

while telling my tee-covered bones

church’ll have stuff

suddenly some dude comes over, gives

him water, sandwich, then takes my spot

but a place by the dandelion being free

I plunk down next to one of those

rare unexpected redemptions—

he begins to eat, but only after

a lady leans closer, no, no softly

correcting wiping his hands as he nods

thanks, only after raising his eyes

where I see a morning glory after three

long years of night, opening purple

pink petals full of hope for the man

smiling back at me


for Monica Gomery


someone asked

whose story is it to tell?

certainly not mine I suppose

given I was up playing board games

over six thousand miles of oceans

and continents away

well past their bedtime

                   when loved ones

wished each other farewell till

morning, anticipating the imminent

day hallowed for rest, no inkling

of the massacre afoot

                  when I slept well past

their noon while some families,

I imagine, were huddling in safe

rooms of homes that managed

not to burn down on top of them

                   when I read that gunmen

like roaming missiles murmuring

rockets rumbling to roar, crashed

front doors in kibbutz after kibbutz

raiding raping leaving in their wake

flats lawns paths filled piled

blocked with death, those left alive

struggling to cope with smoke

choking midst calls for help

never to come...


it’s their story

until I see the news

the man, soot-covered head to toe

his fingers grasping a badly charred cloth

singed flesh strapping its surface

this death flag—all that remains of a dress

and the flesh—all that remains of its wearer

the reporter translating his wailing tongue

she burned alive inside

her safe room...

                                        I rang her, she picked up,

told me, gunmen tear through our streets...

they’ve shot Dad...he's not OK...

here, the man shakes the infernal garment

against the ashy air, the reporter’s voice


                                     she asks me, house full

                                    of ... what should I do?

I’m making my way to you, put

a wet cloth on your face, I say...

                                    can't breathe, help hurry

I tell her, stay in the safe room

don't go out, I say, put a piece

of cloth on your nose, I promise

I will be there, I will be there



that’s when it’s my story to tell

my horrid realization that freedom

anywhere remains just as frail everywhere

that this man’s terror is our nightmare too

my own dear mama at the breakfast table

leading us in prayer not for strangers

but brothers sisters facing down

the gruesome ontic of war begun

my head bowed low just a hover

over my heart fettered to this

inconsolable sibling on the other

side of our world—mourning

About the Author

Olga Dugan

Olga Dugan is a Cave Canem poet. Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, her award-winning poems appear in many literary journals and anthologies including Ekstasis, Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith, The Windhover, ONE ART, Channel (Ireland), Sky Island Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, The Agape Review, The Write Launch, Grand Little Things, Kweli, The Sunlight Press, Ariel Chart, and Poems from Pandemia – An Anthology.

Read more work by Olga Dugan.