This week’s poem, Betsy Sholl’s “Lincoln Park,” shares a glimpse of an unexpected moment of community. I love this poem’s vivid and empathetic narrative voice, and the clear values it embodies: that every single one of us needs and deserves to be heard.

Sholl’s 10th collection of poetry is “As If A Song Could Save You” (University of Wisconsin, 2022). She teaches in the MFA in Writing program of Vermont College of Fine Arts and served as Maine’s poet laureate from 2006 to 2011.

Lincoln Park
By Betsy Sholl

The fellow who’d been panhandling earlier
steps up, matches his gait to a man passing
and leans in without touching, just talking,
talking as the man looks straight ahead,

as if all that eager vagrant wants is an ear,
a little door open for his voice to enter,
to be in step with someone who doesn’t
shake him off, as if that one too has a need—

to be stirred like chimes in a breeze?—
so he accepts the grizzled cheek, upbeat
greeting in grungy tweed, taped shoes,
ragged scarf. And for a moment it’s

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winners all around. No one striding off
like Dante’s victor at dice, the watchers
quick to give chase, hoping for a handout.
No loser either standing alone, replaying

his throws as the crowd scurries away.
No, just this gray afternoon in a small
city park with its dribbling fountain,
where a passerby walks for a time with

another, then goes on alone as his
tattered shadow circles back to a bench,
happy to have his voice in the ear
of one who will briefly carry it on.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Lincoln Park,” © 2024 by Betsy Sholl, appears by permission of the author.

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