Me and Dorothy Day
meet for coffee and watery soup
at a downtown five-and-dime lunch counter.
Me, a cub reporter; she, a wise woman.
I know she picketed the White House,
demanded the vote, went to jail, escaped
with a presidential pardon. She left
her lover for her religion. I know
she started a string of Houses
of Hospitality for the homeless
and unemployed. They still have no vacancies.
In her kitchen, she cooked up the radical
Catholic Worker, fought for peace, did penance
for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I know her church forgave her an abortion,
but she he never forgave herself. I know
Notre Dame gave her the Laetare Medal
for comforting the afflicted
and afflicting the comfortable.
To me, she preaches her gospel at the counter,
the kind of place where civil rights began.
(Yes, she worked that row, too.) She fished her clothes
from donation barrels and today looks like
a Scandinavian queen in a knit hat
sprinkled with silver bangles,
a halo on one now rising toward sainthood.
All I recall of our conversation:
That extra coat in your closet
belongs to the person with none.
She left a mark on me that day.
Every winter I give away a coat,
ashamed to own more than one at a time.