Faith, Hope, Charity

Street corner morning,
sidewalk littered:
plastic soda bottles, candy wrappers, aluminum cans—
flotsam after yesterday’s snowmelt.
When the light’s red, a man
(paper cup in hand, winter coat unbuttoned)
steps off the curb
into the sunlit lane between stopped cars.
Cradled in the crook of his arm
an improvised sign:
SEEKING HUMAN KINDNESS,
ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED.

Inside the coffee shop,
a line of patrons stretching from counter to threshold
waiting for pastries and morning java.
Just outside,
three anxious sparrows twittering beneath the bench
where a young man sleeps, stretched out,
duffel bag for a pillow,
face turned away from us passersby.
Beside him some Samaritan has left
a lunch sandwich,
neatly wrapped in clear plastic, homemade.

I descend into the subway station:
the ever cheerful Metro hawker greets me.
At the Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk
a dark-skinned man— West Indian?—
curly gray hair under
the knit cap he wears in all seasons,
cargo bags at his feet,
hunches over an open Bible
on a pedestal table, his “lectern.”

Some days he scribbles in a notebook—sermons?—
other times, lips moving, eyes turned inward,
he recites passages to himself.  Today, he lifts his head,
casts his gaze over the multitude,
hand extended, and, citing chapter and verse,
silently preaches to his congregation
entering, exiting through the turnstiles—
all of us sinners and no one in particular.

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