This Time, Not an Intruder

Kids’ Club After-School Program, The Gray House, March 2015

Fear made me block the side door with the chain.
A woman, glassy-eyed, rang the bell as if on fire.

Say “stranger” and the kids’ heads pop up like lemmings,
the memory of an intruder in our program last year,

that snarling voice that is mine yet not mine—a live
current under their skin. Rushed to the front door,

kids are matched to names to faces to signatures
and the side bell rings again. This time, I open

that door wide to confront a woman dark-lit by the sun,
words tangling like brambles in her mouth.

Photographing the homeless? None here.
I wave her down the ramp, trash bags

in one hand, rush to lock up the house,
feel my energy ebb. Second trash run.

She’s still there, turning the air
above the steering wheel. Then slumps.

Tell me how an angel feels. Not this panic.
I run in and dial. A cop taps on the car window

she forgets how to open. 25—the blood sugar
level she shouldn’t have, if she wants to live.


From Resistencia: Resilience. poems & essays (Human Error Publishing, 2023) by María Luisa Arroyo Cruzado. Copyright © 2023 by María Luisa Arroyo Cruzado. Used with the permission of the editor and the author.