We didn’t want to go to a shelter.
They would have parted us men from women.
You and I caught in unforgiving ice,
looked for an unlocked car to save us.
We found one but it was clear,
even then we would not survive the night.
By chance we found an open hallway.
It was heated. Together we slept.
We were in the women’s ward of the state
mental hospital at the same dark time.
I remember us being hosed down, naked—
frigid water and bars of Ivory.
I only knew her name was Billie Jean
because that is the name the guards called her.
We took turns passing our smokes back and forth,
not conversing, although sometimes we sang.
I chanced upon her many years later.
She was sleeping on a park bench piled high
with blankets and black bags meant for garbage.
A stench like a dead fish camouflaged her,
like a nun’s habit, protecting her
from predators. I didn’t wake her.