He begged, pleaded to the packed
“L” train for anything anyone
could give to help him buy
the antibiotics he needed
for an infected leg he pulled
up his pants to reveal, but no one
looked at him or the wound
save me. All seemed steeled,
numbed by his humble confession
and grotesquely swollen limb,
like it was just another ruse or
plea they couldn’t afford or decode.
Twenty-two bucks was all he needed.
His posture, the exhausted expression
in his voice and eyes apologized
for having to ask this way,
play the beggar to others barely
paying their fares, but he didn’t know
where else to turn or what to do.
He dropped his head and said
he understood why they couldn’t,
wouldn’t help or acknowledge him.
He knew they were conned for cash
every day, but still he had to ask
because he had nothing to lose
but his leg—his pride gone
miles ago. The commuters
were used to this scene
I hadn’t witnessed before,
a street theater performance surely
worthy of a fifty dollar seat
in some balcony of fine art uptown.
A country bumpkin, I was sold—
but warned off by my sons
and the silence of those around me.
The beggar finally moved on
to the next car, left us suffering
another crisis of conscience,
a daily practice navigating this sea
of humanity, adrift in one’s own
devices, bodies floating by
face down. We keep on moving,
working, scrolling along @