When you think of an old man on a park bench,
One is wont to imagine him feeding a pigeon;
Not lying on his side in a sickened wrench,
Begging for kindness in a cent or smidgen.
You imagine his beard to be trimmed and white,
Not stained a ghoulish green-sick brown;
And you assume he didn’t have to spend the night
Alone, fetal and feeble on a bench downtown.
Alas, his movements are staggered and strained,
His “God bless” cries are hollow and raspy.
He calls the names of children, long grown estranged;
How deep his suffering has grasped me!
He hopes: “Crystal?! Laura?!” and “Thomas?!”
And he takes off his mildew’d cap;
He voice falters to a soft, calm hiss,
And his weathered face has wrinkles like a map.
But then his voice rises, and loses its calm;
He’s shook by past traumas which he can’t hide.
He screams “I didn’t fucking like Vietnam!”
And it tears me apart inside.
I finish a stanza, and approach the man,
And hand him a two-bite–missing muffin,
He smiles at me with what teeth he can,
Then says “Now listen, I ain’t bluffin’ –
Let me teach you a lesson,
Paint’ya a pict’chya;
If you ain’t got God’s bless, son,
Then the Devil’s bound to get’chya.”