Departure Gate

Most people haven’t seen a departure gate this past year but it’s a great place to just sit and observe. It’s something I really enjoy because just by watching people, you can create entire stories. But I also like the idea of this poem: actually going up to a stranger and being kind to him or her without expecting anything back. Just because you want to brighten up their day. Maybe I’ll do that next time.

She was standing near a departure gate,
sandal-footed, her wiggly hair
and the latticework of her mercury footwear
the same satiny gold, and there was something
wistful about her, under the burnish
of her make-up she looked extremely young,
and a little afraid. I wanted to speak
to her, as if I were a guardian spirit
working the airport – God knows
I was crazed with my fresh solitariness –
so I did a little double-take
when I passed her, and said, Could I ask, where did you
get your sandals – my husband, I lied,
wants me to get some, and she said a name, as if
relieved to speak. Thanks, I said,
they look great with your hair – actually
(my head bowed down on its own), you look
like a goddess. Her face came out from behind
its cloud, You don’t know how I needed that!,
she cried out, I’m going to meet my boyfriend’s
parents. You’ll do just fine, I said, you look
beautiful and good. She looked joyful. I bustled off —
so this is what I’ll do, now,
instead of kissing and being kissed, I’ll
go through airports praising people like an
anti-Christ saying, you do not need
to change your life.

Sharon Olds


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