Two Poems by Joy McDowell

Those Shoes

Three hours inside
the Washington D.C. Holocaust Museum.
….Those shoes. The faces and stories.
A long walk across the mall
….underlines my fortunate life.
Grief nibbles at my eyes.

Then a weekend in Miami.
….A niece appears in the opera,
….The Passenger, a moving work
about Auschwitz and the fear
of a former guard who believes
she has seen one of her inmates

on board a ship bound for Brazil.
….Arias spill the misery and torture
….of that brutal slaughter place.
On the stage, the revolving set
alternates between white ship scenes
….and a color worse than somber

for the filthy camp barracks.
….Bonds develop among inmates.
….Callous indifference directs guards.
Then I am back poolside
at my resort eating fruit and
….watching healthy bodies swim.

The air is balmy, the sounds happy,
only inside my head does it remain
….dark and dim.
From an orchestra of organized
horror the sweet sting of a violin
….needles my mind.

In the Dark

Homeless kids pass midnight
on worn couches, do homework
in out-of-gas cars, search a kitchen
for food and don’t have a shower.

Homeless kids don’t take
vacations. A night at the Mission
doesn’t count. They wait in bushes
while their mother begs.

These kids keep changing schools.
Babies wear saturated diapers.
Good kids lie to cover
for drugged-out dads.

Their world doesn’t rely on wrist watches
or calendars and they can only imagine
a bad day getting better, so they
push anger into mouse corners.

Homeless kids have at least one friend
who is a police officer. Homeless kids
help damaged parents. They sleep light
and recognize bad noises.

About Joy McDowell

Joy McDowell is a graduate of the University of Oregon. She has produced four chapbooks and four of her poems were included in the anthology, New Poets of the American West. Recent work was published in Willawaw and The Poeming Pigeon.

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