A Poem for Strangers


Do you know how many times I thought of you

between breakfast and lunch?


times 10.


Are you right where I left you

filled with hope and self doubt?

I know about your nightmares.

I know about pain

and being so so scared,

so scared all the time.

I know you can’t sleep with your back to the door.

I know you sleep better with your hand

on my stomach.


Do you still exist

when I walk out your door?

I need to know if I imagined

all of the love

I’ve ever felt.

The whole world is empty.

My whole world is empty,

but no

it’s not.

Surely you are real

just as my mother is real

just as every person on this train is real.

And God loves you,

that’s real.

Do you ever think about that?

About the heat radiating from the black city streets

seeping into our skin?

I think God’s love is like that.


I don’t really know you

but I think you are filled

with love and hate

and darkness and light.

Do you make pictures out of the black dust

that’s settled at the bottom of your lungs?

Do you paint black on your porcelain heart,

portraits of children

whose hands you’ve held,

whose mothers you’ve watched die?


I am not as good as you,

for all my rings

and purity

and church services.

What do you think of cathedrals?

I think your heart is a cathedral.

I want to walk through the ornate doors

and pray

and ask for forgiveness

for lying to you

for letting you believe I was good.

My religion does not make me good,

your love does.


Do you know how many times a day

I think about holding your face in my hands

and saying I’m sorry?

I’m sorry.

Will you still remember me

If I knock on your door?

Will you let me in?

Will you be kind to me,

or will you be unforgiving?

Will you expect things from me?

Heavy things I cannot give?

Or will you simply lie with me

with your hand on my stomach

and let me be someone

who needs only to exist.


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