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By Kathy Engel

Ashen face, wool hat bobbing,

the young boy’s eyes dart to me,

then up at the man pulling a rolling

suitcase, whose hand he holds,

then back at me. His legs move

as if without gravity. The man asks:

Do you know a church on this street

that serves free food? I want to say

I know. That the names of churches

on an Avenue called Americas roll

out of me. I want to tell you

it is temporary, their condition:

suitcase, darting eyes, seeking free

food at 9 pm in a big city on a school night.

I want to tell you I don’t for a moment

wonder if that is really the boy’s father

or uncle or legitimate caretaker — 

something in the handholding and

eyes, having watched too many

episodes of Law and Order. I want

to tell you I take them to a restaurant

and pay for a warm meal or empty

my wallet not worrying how

offensive that might be because

in the end hunger is hunger.

I want to tell you I call someone

who loves them — that there is someone — 

and say your guys are lost, can

you come? I want to tell you I sit

down on the sidewalk at the corner

of Waverly and pray — that all

passing by, anonymous shoes

marking the pavement, join

in a chorus of prayer humming

like cicadas in the Delta. I want to

tell you the boy and the man eat food

encircled by the warmth of bodies.

I want to turn the cold night into a feast.

I will tell you I am praying.


Source: Poetry (January 2016)

  • Activities
  • Living

Poet Bio

Kathy Engel
Kathy Engel is the chair of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Department of Art and Public Policy. Ruth’s Skirts (Ikon) and We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon (Interlink Books) were published in 2007. See More By This Poet

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