Beyond This Point Lie Demons
The rush of noon begins.
You are between 19th and M,
hurrying to the Greek take-out for lunch.
How could you know the man would choose
that moment to come from the alley?
Dressed in rags, hands grabbing air,
he heads for you.
Passers-by keep walking,
pretending not to see, and you,
your knees shaking,
will yourself forward,
praying he’ll let you by.
But then an urge just takes you.
You look – really look – at him.
What you see punches a hole through your heart.
Without realizing, you reach out.
You aren’t prepared for his reaction.
“No, Momma, No!” he screams, as though
you just burned him and backs away,
leaving your eyes to follow.
You try not to see the cardboard box,
try not to breathe the garbage nearby,
try not to see how he sways,
how dazed his eyes are,
and think of that slaughterhouse steer
you saw on TV, beaten and shocked
when it couldn’t stand up.
His eyes… why can’t you let go of his eyes?
One week later you pass that way again.
You risk a look; see nothing but a flattened box.
Ventilator shafts climb past blank windows,
and twelve stories up, an indifferent sky
looks back at you.
Judith Quaempts © 2010