After a night in the shelter, where bed bugs bite,
where derelicts mutter in their sleep,
where the only meal is soup and ham sandwich,
an unemployed, divorced, middle-aged man,
sits crossed-legged like a Buddhist statue,
next to a trash bin, on a sidewalk in the inner city.
He’s tormented by melancholy, disabled from a bizarre
construction accident. He’s homeless, his face unshaven,
his hair oily and disheveled, his teeth rotting from decay,
his fingers stained yellow from nicotine, his bones aching
from arthritis, his body shivering from the chilly wind
of autumn. He has a hacking cough like someone
who’s got pneumonia. He hasn’t bathed in days,
smells like the sewer.
He wears a pair of filthy white socks, holes in the toes,
scuffed, dirty black shoes, a torn white tee-shirt,
soiled trousers from Goodwill, a down-filled winter parka,
two sizes too large, shoplifted from Sears. There’s a sign
resting on his legs and chest, “Homeless!
Please spare some pocket change. Thank you.”
All day, he extends his trembling hand, holding out a soiled
baseball cap, retrieved from the city dump, making a plea
for pocket change to strangers who pass, hoping to purchase
hot coffee and a sweet doughnut. “Please, any change will help,”
he begs in a hopeless tone.
Chatting on smartphones, lost in thought, gazing
at the window displays, sometimes tossing remnants
of fast food into the trash bin, an endless stream
of strangers pass, ignoring his pleas, his misery,
as if he’s trash on the city street.