THE TIME IS ALWAYS RIGHT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT.
With every language you learn, you gain another soul.
Irish and Czech proverb
WHAT SURPRISED ME MOST…
beneath surgery-bright restaurant lights was the unspoken collusion of employees and patrons to ignore the bone-defined man as he tapped thin-paned glass to beg for food. He shoved skeletal hands toward his gaping mouth as if to fill the gnawing we could not imagine while digesting pasta and merlot rather than our muscles to survive as this man’s body had, his hollowed face pled as he mimed across the chasm of language, culture, class. After the waiter returned our leftovers, snug in Styrofoam, I took them across the restaurant, my legs heavy beneath reproach’s hypnotic weight from those unwilling to squander etiquette’s rules that insure our warmth while others freeze. Through my breath outside, I saw him accept a dollar from two spike-heeled women as they scuttled from a bar across the street, yet money’s a tool for future trade, no immediate relief for a churning gut. Drunk with hunger, he wavered in the crosswalk till a horn startled him to the curb. Waving, I caught his eye, offered the bright box. Our eyes locked yet he wouldn’t move, suspended in a code more compelling than starvation, a code older than the south and dangerous as asphyxiation. Cloaked in privilege, I left our paltry leftovers on the bus stop bench and returned to the interior’s glare, each of us visible through glass walls. He sprinted across the street, gulped what would have been tomorrow’s lunch, threw away the box, and returned to the window beside us. He smiled, waved, tried to thank me, but I saw him only peripherally, embarrassed to accept gratitude for so little before he walked away.
Thank you to the editors of decomp magazine who first published this poem.
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
Attributed to many though Unknown Origin