Alan Catlin

Our Lady of the 55

Nearly every morning, a certain woman in our
community comes running out of her home
with her face white and her house coat flapping
wildly. She cites out, "Emergency, emergency."
and one of us runs to her and holds her until
her fears are calmed. We know she is making
it up; nothing has really happened to her.
But we undersand---"Lydia Davis, Fear"

She is the caretaker of the barely sentient,
prone to incoherence babbling skeletal woman
of indeterminate old age, guiding the wheelchair
into a secure place on the overcrowded, already
running late bus. From the folds of the old one's
shawl she extracts pamphlets, scripture, citings
chapter and verse in a determined monotone
to the assembled, trapped by circumstances
and assurances that Jesus is the one true love
on the crowded highway of life, on this journey
where the reward is on the other side, a point
she emphasizes by tearing carefully folded strips
of tract as she speaks, no necromancer's tricks
up her short sleeves, just a magician's basic
origami folding, transformation of the torn
into a unified whole, a cross. "Like the one
Our Lord died on for our sins. "We, the unawed,
the not converted, travel onward, condemned
to remain as we are, sinners in the hands
of the Capital District Transit Authority,
riding an uneven highway to hell.