Sint Antonius
by Jennifer Hernandez

Too many hours in Bausch and Lomb,
everything itchy trapped on my eyeballs
under those rubbery discs, but without them
I’d be as good as blind. My glasses were lost.

Less than 24 hours earlier, I’d taken off my glasses,
tucked them carefully in my purse on the night train
from Hamburg and dozed off, exhausted. When I awoke,
my purse – coins, camera, Ulysses, glasses – all was gone.

It happens, said the train employee. When the train
switches tracks in the night. Thieves hop on, then off,
before people even realize what’s gone missing.
Report it when you disembark.

So I did. To the kind, attentive young man
at the ferry terminal in Holland, thinking all the while
that it was a waste of time for both of us. That purse –
those glasses – were lost forever.

I made my way back to the University of Lancaster –
ferry, Tube, train, taxi – eyes burning all the way,
until I ripped out those contacts and put on
the spare glasses stored in the back of my wardrobe.

These were ugly glasses with giant 80s plastic frames —
not like the lovely round Lennon-style glasses I’d lost.
But at least I could see. Two weeks later, imagine
my surprise when I found a note that a package had arrived.

Imagine my greater confusion when I saw the Dutch postmark.
I carefully opened the package, and inside lay my purse
in all its beige faux-leather glory. There was a handwritten note
from the kind, attentive young man at the ferry terminal.
My purse had been found in the train toilet, dumped by the thief

when he found it contained little of value, in his eyes at least.
Nothing was missing but the collection of coins. My camera –
film ruined but otherwise fine. My copy of Ulysses – waterlogged,
still incomprehensible. And my glasses – paint chipped, lenses intact.

After a thorough sterilization and a bit of unbending,
my glasses were as good as new, or nearly. I’d like to say
I sent the kind Dutch man a note. I have never forgotten
his thoughtful gesture. I can only hope that the universe
has repaid him, my own Sint Antonius,
patron saint of lost objects.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, wearing my beloved glasses (circa 1990).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Many times I’ve considered how fortunate I’ve been in my travels, not to have lost anything of great value. Even in the instance described in this poem, my passport and cash were safely strapped to my waist in a fanny pack. I also learned a valuable lesson about the naiveté of falling asleep on a train with my purse casually tucked next to me on a seat — one of many valuable lessons I learned as a junior-year-abroad student with a Eurail pass and a taste for adventure.

J. Hernandez1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Hernandez lives in Minnesota, where she teaches immigrant youth and writes poetry, flash, and creative nonfiction. She has performed her poetry at a nonprofit garage, a taxidermy-filled bike shop, and in the kitchen for her children. Recent work appears in Disarticulations, Mothers Always Write, Sonic Boom and the Nancy Drew Anthology (Silver Birch Press).