On North Avenue, A Chance Encounter with Dignity

A chance encounter with dignity: we were headed in different directions, our destinations – and everything else – unknown to one another.

A portion of North Avenue, formerly a city limit, is home to a jumble of long-time African-American neighbors, creatives, young entrepreneurs, and people passing through. Rich with their assorted cultural resources. 

It’s one place in Baltimore where racial and class silos are just a bit permeable. People mix it up on the street. At the corner of North Avenue and North Charles Street. At Red Emma’s, where you can pay it forward for a cuppa joe and browse radical lit. At the Y-Not Lot, home to community gatherings like the mourning after the Pulse shootings. At Impact Hub, a co-working and civic forum space. I was headed there yesterday to learn about the work of B-CIITY: Baltimore City Intergenerational Initiatives for Trauma and Youth. 

More about them another time: that event was cancelled at the last minute, making room for a different encounter.

 

North Avenue, Tuesday morning

by Sara Eisenberg

 

how ‘bout we exchange a little love?

you said,

throwing your left arm wide 

open for a hug.

 

awlriiiight, I said,

turning back to you

with a natural affection.

 

you’d spent four bucks

on a bus pass and had not

eaten, i had

a couple of bucks

to spare.

 

we turned away, headed in different

directions,

I had a clear destination, 

arrived to find 

B-CIITY’s event cancelled, so

 

(ten minutes) 

 

there you were, reached out

again, 

standing at the bus stop, half

a hot sandwich wrapped

in paper

 

made my day,

you said

turns out I came down here just to meet you,

I said

 

you looked emaciated, even a lightweight

jacket sat heavy on your

shoulders but

you had a destination too

 

and dignity

to spare.

 


Banner photo: Common Threads, by Linda Carmel, Hillsborough Gallery, Hillsborough, North Carolina

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