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Today's poem was the result of ruminating on two incidents that I experienced a couple of years ago, within a month of each other. This is the poem I mentioned writing awhile ago but didn't want to post because I felt it was too dismal. I said I'd post it on a day when we all need a good cry.
Well, I don't know about you, but I've been in a bit of a blah, bleak mood the last week or two, so I'm ready to put it out there. But I certainly don't want to bring anyone else down, so this is fair warning: read at your own risk.
Spreading misery instead of cheer. Way to go, Donkey.
"You got any money?"
A harsh voice, startling me.
A stranger: tall, rangy, vacant eyes.
"Sorry, I don't carry cash."
Almost the truth: two dollars in my pocket. Heart hammering.
Not keen to be bullied into giving any amount.
He erupted with a curse, and "I had nothin' to eat since the morning. I need some money."
I wondered if swearing would turn to striking.
Wondered why he was asking for money for food on an empty street
After all the food shops were closed.
He strode away, cursing me loudly.
Later, I wondered what he'd have said, or done,
If I'd offered him the banana from my work lunch.
It didn't occur to me.
Too scared to think.
Too worried by his anger.
And, to be honest,
Too upset by his expectation
That all he needed to do was demand,
And he would be given,
Would my two dollars have been enough
To make him less angry?
"Excuse me, could you spare a couple dollars?"
A gentle voice, dignified.
A stranger: tall, rangy, too dark to see his eyes.
A cold night, outside the grocery store.
"I don't have enough money for my rent," he added.
"I just need twenty-five dollars, and my landlord will let me stay."
Five dollars in my pocket.
Five dollars from my hand to his.
"I'm sorry it's not more."
"Thank you; bless you," he said quietly.
Later, leaving with my groceries, and with items for him,
He was gone.
I know hunger will make rough edges,
And corrode the soul.
And I know that addiction serves a purpose:
Dulls the senses, dulls the hurt, dulls the emotions.
(Did addiction even have anything to do with anything?)
And, further, I know that giving is better than withholding
Even if the gift is -- or seems, at times -- mis-spent.
And I know that conditions shape us, and our parents shape us,
And exposure to the elements and mental illness and being out of a job
And physical pain and not enough warm clothes and -- god, there are so
Many hard things that shape us -- being ridiculed, being bullied, being ignored,
Being invisible, being passed over, being rejected, being beaten ...
But even knowing all those things,
Why ... why ... why
Was it so much easier to give to the second man
Than to the first?