by Carrie Heimer
Literature can be a training ground for putting faith into action. Even second-hand or imagined encounters can spur real compassion in the physical future. When we reach out in words, where we’re safe, we prepare to cross a boundary with respect at our next opportunity. We prepare to offer the comfort we weren’t able or brave enough to offer when our last chance arose.
In “For the Homeless Woman Whose Nails You Painted,” allowing a stranger to hold her hands gently and long enough to paint her fingernails was intensely vulnerable. My friend who shared the story made the gesture as part of a group offering dignity to homeless women in Portland by restoring some safe measure of a femininity too often exploited. My heart breaks for all the ways the female body becomes a target and a burden. The impulse of my poems is to offer the dignity of recognition. I write to say I see you, which is what God says to us again and always. I see you, and you are valuable to me.
More of Carrie Heimer’s work is available at poetryissalt.com.