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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)

TITLE: Him?
By Caitlyn Meissner
12/09/10


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I slam the car door. “Beep!” It locks.
I slosh my way through icy slush,
Across the parking lot,
To the building paved in signs.
“Sale!” I read.
“Fresh Produce! Milk $1.99!”
Words in neon colors,
Orange, lime, and pink.
And there, by the door, small and plain,
A red board with white lettering,
A sign that reads,
Salvation Army.

Dangling, rocking, under the sign,
Hangs a red plastic kettle.
Beside it, a man swathed in a gray coat,
Gloves, boots, scarf, hat,
With a red apron ‘round his waist.
He stands straight, tall,
His proud arm ringing the bell,
Majestically playing the Christmas song,
“Ring-ding! Ring-dong!”
Give change! Give now!
“Ring-dong! Ring-ding!”
Lives change! Give now!

As I draw close, his face lights up.
“Are you next in line?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say, “I’m your replacement.”
He shakes my hand, tugs the apron off,
And helps me tie it behind my back.
“Here, take the bell. Make sure you keep it ringing.
Never let it stop.
You’re last in line, but someone will come,
To collect the kettle.
Just keep ringing,
Just keep waiting,
Until you see him come.”

He walks away. I set to work.
“Ring-a-ling! Ring-a-ling!”
A few small pennies, a handful of coins,
A dollar bill! I shove it through the hole.
Watching the faces, I wait … wondering …
Who will collect the kettle?
A woman in a fur-lined coat?
A lanky teen, hands shoved deep into pockets?
A retired soldier?
A slick-tongued lawyer?
No, probably not.
“Ring-a-ling! Ring-a-ling!”

It’s getting dark. The store lights shine.
Where is he? Will he come?
My arm feels numb. I must keep ringing!
“Ring-ding! Ring-dong!”
Cold feet. I stomp them up and down.
Cold hands. I flap them to and fro.
Cold nose. I rub it warm.
Where is he?
Or she … or it … or whatever. Please, come!
Isn’t it time yet? Has my watch stopped?
Two dimes, one nickel, a quarter.
“Ring-dong! Ring-ding!”

From out of the dark, a voice speaks,
“Are you having fun?”
Startled, I nearly drop the bell,
But it’s only a man in a wheelchair,
Small, gray hair, thin eyes and mouth.
“I’m here to collect the kettle,” he says.
I stare at him, not comprehending.
I waited for you?
I kept ringing for you?
Maybe the cold has gone to my head.
Is this the one I was waiting for?
Him?
He sees my eyes fixed on his wheelchair,
On his unmoving legs,
And…
He smiles.
Suddenly,
I see a man,
Weak,
Yet strong.
Filled with sorrows,
Filled with joy.
The perfect contradiction.
My bell falls silent.

Slowly, I untie the apron,
And wrap the folds around the bell.
“Do you need … help?” I stutter. “I’ll … carry something.”
“No need,” he says. “I’ll be just fine.”
So I walk away, back to my car,
Under a dark sky, and one silver star.
I open the door, and start the engine.
Wait for it … Ahhh … heat.
Shifting gears, I reverse, and take one last look back.
Though a car’s in the way, I still see that small sign.
Only one word is visible.
Salvation.


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This article has been read 322 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/13/10
What a brilliant way to get your message heard. I really enjoyed this. Often poems can be lost on me but your message rang out loud and clear.
Noel Mitaxa 12/15/10
You have sketched the outline and coloured it in with an economy of language that shows your skill beautifully.
Amanda Brogan12/16/10
Marvelous! I could see a bit of a Christ figure in the old man. People waited for Christ for centuries and when He came, it was not in a manner that they expected. Yet He came for our salvation.

Perfect story for the Christmas season! For being a first attempt at poetry, I'd say you did absolutely awesome!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/16/10
Congratulations for placing 8th in Masters and 12th overall.
Amanda Brogan12/17/10
Yahoo! It is cool to see our names side by side on the top 20 list! (Though I'm surprised you're not above me. ;) )