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.