Tanya's the last to leave the shelter;
she folds the two Red Cross blankets
into a bag marked with her name--
she'll be back tonight after seven.
I watch her pack her belongings:
the powder-blue bag of cosmetics,
her robe, extra sweaters, and last
at the top, a little stuffed panda.
"Come have some breakfast," I say.
"There's cereal, coffee, and Danish."
She sets her bag at the end of the counter;
I reach out and touch the panda.
A smile softens her face. "My baby's, Maria."
Pictures appear from her wallet. "Here,
her first birthday. And this is Joey, he's three.
They're with my mom in New Hampshire."
She's silent and looks away, takes out her pass
to Traveler's Aid. There she'll store
her belongings, perhaps take a shower,
then two more buses to get to her job
where she'll work as if nothing has happened,
nothing at all--except for the children.
She'll call them at break, again at seven
before she returns to the shelter.