AT FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON

homeless pocurry

Four days before Christmas on

the shortest day of the year

the traffic is bumper to bumper

 

on Reserve from the Interstate to

South Avenue, three miles of cars,

no place for pedestrians. The homeless

 

are tucked away in the best shelters

they can find before darkness

and the temperature falls, save these

 

two “hearty” souls, one standing

on the corner of American Way holding

his sign, “ANYTHING WILL HELP.”

 

No expression, he’ll stand till dark

then go to wherever he goes to sleep,

and he’ll be back tomorrow. It must be

 

a decent corner, I’ve seen him out there

for the last three weeks or more. Now

the other guy I’ve never seen before.

 

He’s slumped on one elbow, laid back

in the snow, just watching the drivers

rolling by, his duffel propped beside him.

 

Maybe he’s lubed or just ran out

of gas. I like to think he’s taking a break

to study the reason for the season,

 

that economic engine in motion, the rise

of the gross national product. I like to believe

at one time he was an engineer who could

 

appreciate the work-a-day world inside

these automobiles, the pressures to get

the deals before they disappear. And

 

I think I see a slight smile, a grin, not

a smirk or a sneer, but a truly amused

expression, maybe sympathetic, maybe not.

 

I decide he feels fine lying there in the snow

watching this shit-show of exhaust blowing

and stopping and shopping and going

 

like eyeing a herd of metal and money

and oil moving to feed their need to go.

Some citizen on a cell, a casino employee

 

or drug store patron, will call

the necessary authorities to come

and do something about his pose.

 

If they don’t smell booze, he may have to

tell them to go fuck themselves, or

take a swing to get them to run him in

 

for a shower, a warm bunk, a meal or two,

some smokes, a little TV and laughter—

yet another cozy Christmas inside.

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