Updated: Jan 24, 2022
A homeless man in front of the coffee shop door
Talking to himself
Laughing, then nearly crying
I wonder who he is talking to
His zip-up jacket hangs off his left shoulder
His beard and hair unkempt and long.
People breeze past him on their way
to get coffee and start their day
Avoiding eye contact with the crazy man
The lost man, the wayward stranger
Afraid of engaging or
recognizing something in his eyes
Afraid of his humanity.
What made him this way?
He was a baby once
An infant in his mother's arms
How did her baby end up here?
The lost man on the street
Blocking the door to the start of my morning.
Fear and annoyance first in my heart
Then pity for him and
anger at the system that
Then I just wonder if he'd like a coffee and
someone to look him in the eye.
His name is Curtis
He said my hair reminds him of
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha
and the barista's hair is the most beautiful
Tell me how he remembers that word
but struggles to recall his own name?
He said some weird shit
something about Moses and
how he met him at the shelter
He spoke of various brothers
and God, like he's someone he knows
Mostly nonsense, but glimmers of lucidity.
His teeth are all gone except two on the bottom
Like my own baby boy, except that
this man's teeth are black at the root
His eyes are missing their light
Like a candle nearly burned out
He's there, but lost.
I told him I had to go to work, he asked-
You have a job? Can I go with you?
I'm a good worker, he said.
Have a good day, Curtis,
Sit here on this bench with your coffee
I press a spare quarter into his palm-
Black and dirty fingernails unfurl
and reveal a fistful of coins.
What will this man's day entail?
I just hope
people are nice.
Recognizing that no one would choose this life.
Maybe he's an addict
His mental health is a wreck
But he could be me,
he was once an innocent child, too.