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Urban Camping

I awaken in the dark
and draw the blanket closer ‘round my hunched shoulders
while I ponder the luxury
of catching a bit more sleep.
Unfortunately, my bladder has other ideas.
I grope blindly for my shoes
and begin the long walk to the communal toilet,
crossing my arms in front of my chest as I stumble forward,
crossing my legs when I find it occupied.
I, like the other campers here,
am bleary-eyed
squinting against a light which is neither moon nor sun.
We’re a motley bunch.
Our clothes, rumpled from sleeping in them,
match face wrinkles more pronounced from fatigue.
But, like many campgrounds where I’ve stayed,
we share a silent bond,
a camaraderie born of shared hardship and deprivation. 
The normal defenses fall away.
We smile at each other
and whisper “good morning” as we cross paths in this urban space
where the campers sleep fitfully,
dreams disturbed—not by the sound
of distant coyote howls—
but by the all-too-near cries of our children,
in pain and afraid;
by the foreign sounds of strangers
hunting their own sleep nearby.
We toss and turn,
grateful for the soft foot-fall of the nurses’ shoes,
silently padding in to check our babies’ vital signs,
in this space where we all
share one common name:  “Mom”
and where privacy—for our children and ourselves—
is a valued, but non-existent thing.
As the morning sun streams through the window blinds,
painting a picket fence on the linoleum floor,
I feel a kinship
with all the other urban campers,
disheveled though we may be…
some of us waking under bridges,
some of us in our children’s hospital rooms...
but all longing
for a peaceful night’s sleep
in our own beds.                                                                 

(Written 1/26/04 at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles)

Love Poem

I love to feel you near me
lying side by side in bed
wet kisses in the darkness
your shoulder cradling my head

Sometimes I sit and watch you work
when you don't know I'm there
so studious with your glasses,
so boyish, your soft brown hair

At times I'm caught off guard
by how moved you make me feel
A look, a hug, a sweet sad song
A cherished dream turned real

I feel your presence with me
even when you are away
And I try to imagine what you're doing
when I think of you throughout the day

At times I let my mind wander
I picture you at a younger age
in the wilds of Alaska
your life story a half-written page

And I see us together years from now
though the thought of aging makes you sad
but I find comfort in knowing
our love's no passing fad

We're bound together, you and I
heart to heart and face to face
And I'm so glad that of all the women in this world
you chose me to embrace.

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