February, NYC

Two men on the bus threaten to kill each other

not now, but later, out of sight of cameras.

They scream across the people crammed

like whole chickens into cans, moist and stuffed,

shuffling and turning as far as they can from the fuss.

 

The student scrolling through slides for a test,

pregnant woman balancing her belly on working heels,

old man with a cane, sleepy child wilting for a seat –

all equals in discomfort, shining beacons

of the democracy that is public transportation.

 

A homeless man begs for twenty dollars for a coat,

takes what’s offered and strides off, head up,

whining thrown off like a cheap clothing drive suit.

The woman who gave a few dollars fears

she’s been duped but can’t say no

to a potential angel entertained unaware.

She stops

to wonder who this Sunday School guilt hurts most,

the person taken in, or this man she eyes

as moral litmus, parable-in-disguise.

 

Emergency shelters open up.  Intake workers

leave for empty lots, church steps, benches,

rounding up those who might not last outside.

Even those who’ve “lost their privileges” –

stealing, went off meds, overstayed, too many fights –

invited back, just this once, for winter’s coldest night.

 

Copyright 2015 Carrie Myers. Originally published in “Re-Imagining Theologies: Asian / Americans and Faith,” March 28-May 15, 2015. The Walls-Ortiz Gallery and Center.

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