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)
More Poems about Activities
I come home,
feet about to bleed
from angry stomping.
“Boy!” says Mom.
“Quit making all that racket.”
But what does she expect
when, day after day,
haters sling words at me
like jagged stones
designed to split my skin?
I retreat to my room,
collapse on the bed,
count, “One. Two....
Nowhere Else to Go
Turn off the lights.
Wear another layer.
(Sounds like a dad.)
(Sounds like a mom.)
You say hand-me-down.
I say retro.
Walk some more.
(See what I did there,
Your name in Sharpie
on a good water bottle.
Backpack. New habits.
No thanks, don’t need a bag.
Tell ten friends
More Poems about Living
A wishbone branch falls
from my Grandma Thelma’s oak
What do you know about magic? e1 asks.
E bends e old body down, turns
the wishbone branch into
a cross, places it around my neck.
I am strapped at the Black River’s right shoulder,
I want to put down what the mountain has awakened.
My mouthful of grass.
My curious tale. I want to stand still but find myself moved patch by patch.
There's a bleat in my throat. Words fail me here. Can you understand? I...
More Poems about Religion
Wake up, greet the sun, and pray.
Burn cedar, sweet grass, sage—
sacred herbs to honor the lives we’ve been given,
for we have been gifted these ways since the beginning of time.
Remember, when you step into the arena of your life,
For the Feral Splendor That Remains
sometimes I strain