By Julie Hanson
I couldn’t determine her age. She was trying not to look me in the face.
I was approaching a bank of blue seating at Gate B-8,
her bank of seating, and I sat next to her.
I got out my glasses and reading.
I put them back in my bag.
How could I read when the woman seated next to me and trying not to cry
was only mostly succeeding?
I rustled through the inner pockets of my purse
until I found the travel pack of tissue, crumpled from the years,
flecked with leather dust. But as I offered it up, I saw that she, Thanks, anyway,
had already produced her own.
Isn’t that just like us?-always a little something somewhere in the purse
which can’t alter reality in the large sense
but might help us along in the small.
Her phone rang.
She wiped her nose and answered with her name.
No, she couldn’t show the split foyer this afternoon,
but Cindy in the office could.
Some kind of confidence had happened in her shoulders. And her voice:
genuine, helpful. She specified the freeways to avoid and better ways to take.
It sounded like L.A.
Her voice played the notes of continual possibility.
There was one more door at the end of disappointment,
and this might be it, it just might. Hearing her speak,
there isn’t a client who wouldn’t have straightened a bit,
She slipped her phone into her bag and rearranged her legs.
I glanced obliquely to our right and said,
“You handled that awfully well, Karen, under the circumstances.”
Then she told me everything.
O’Hare International Airport
Julie Hanson’s collections are The Audible and the Evident, winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, (Ohio University Press, February 2020) and Unbeknownst (University of Iowa Press, 2011), Iowa Poetry Prize winner and 2012 Kate Tufts Discovery Award finalist. Her poetry has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center, recent or forthcoming publication in Plume, Bat City Review, The Literary Review, Cold Mountain Review, and Copper Nickel.
Originally published in NOR 8.
“Always a Little Something Somewhere in the Purse” has since been collected in Unbeknownst by Julie Hanson, © 2011. Reprinted by permission of the University of Iowa Press.