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  • You know I crossed the street when I saw you coming,
    You felt me turn a blind uncaring eye.

    I tell myself
    I practice good deeds
    (when the timing works for me)

    Yeah, the truth is,
    when I go out walking,
    When I walk the nighttime streets
    I go unadorned.
    Dejewled, no cell, no cash.
    That way, when you stop and ask
    I can pat my pockets honestly
    shake my head with a sigh.

    But I think you know
    that when I reach my gate
    I check the shadows,
    keys between my fingers like jagged claws.


    How many times has the light been just about to turn green.
    My wallet stuck in a back pocket.
    The guy behind me impatiently pressing.
    How many times have I seen you look,
    hands imploring,
    knowing I won’t stop.

    Sure, there’ve been times.

    Loaves of bread for the crew who sit on cracked cement blocks
    behind the store.

    Coins for the beggars at the intersection holding crude signs.
    Bills out the car window as the light turns.
    God bless you baas, they say.
    Or
    Thank you master.

    The guy who said his arm was broken.
    That they threw him off a train.
    We were up on Government Street,
    -How ironically fitting-
    and we drove back with clothes and food and cash,
    looked up and down the streets,
    but he was gone.

    A year later the radio did a short piece about a guy who ran the exact same scam.

    My daughter said the guys who show their ID books and need train or taxi fare to get back home,
    that they are trolling for suckers just like me.

    Others say don’t give money to the ragged kids and broken men,
    the boy with toes like giant sausages
    flopping through the cut off front of his right shoe,
    the women steadying blind men amidst the traffic.

    Don’t give to them, they’ll only drink it and there are shelters for people like that.

    They need to make new choices, they tell me.
    There are agencies for this kind of thing.

    Thing, I think.

    And then I listen to some kid
    sucking down a skinny cappuccino
    telling me about the ruling class and the 1% who have it all.
    Or
    The business type in linen pants and long, long pointy shoes
    talking 'bout his Foundation and Service
    but his aftershave gets to me before his words.

    And I got to wonder, I am sorry but I do,
    what percent are the ragged boys,
    the broken men,
    the women standing mute and battered in the traffic?
    Waiting.
    Waiting to be seen.
    Waiting for me to wake up.
    Not cross the street.
    Not turn a blind uncaring eye.

    And walking this evening I remembered a song;
    What if God was one of us, just a stranger on the bus, just a slob like one of us.

    But I don’t think he is one of us
    I think she is one of them
    and she’s waiting too.
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