Thursday, January 08, 2009

Altruism

Tonight on my way home from another long day
I stopped at the market for coffee and lotto,
exhaustion pulling at my sunken eyes,
the need to be home in my own little space
(as hand-me-down as it is)
my sole motivation,
but as I near the counter
I see a hunched over person who
in an overly apologetic voice
asks how much the cheapest cigarettes are;
he flashes a guilty glance my way
and I can see the fear of living
reflected in his furtive eyes,
then I hear the splash of random change
and inwardly sigh
knowing my homeward trek
has been momentarily derailed.

I watch his cracked and soiled fingernails
sorting through the pile of coins,
my own detached digits
caressing the jaded tokens of greed
that line my pockets,
reluctant to intercede and possibly destroy
what may be left of whatever pride
he once had;
finally the last penny is tallied,
his defeated shoulders sink even deeper
and he turns to go empty handed
until I lean over to drop
two shiny quarters on the counter.

“Thank you sir, thank you, thanks.” He stammers
barely able to meet my gaze,
I smile half-heartedly
aware my true incentive is getting home
(damn my honesty)
and turn to conduct my business
resisting the urge to playfully say
“You know those things will kill you.”
because the profuseness of his gratitude told me
he already knew.

4 comments:

Shirley said...

This is very good. Honesty is a virtue but, in all honesty you did a kind thing and could have simply taken his place in line if you were only thinking of yourself. You're a good man Charlie Brown! ;)

S.L. Corsua said...

It's a poem with several facets, depending on which perspective to consider: that of the persona, that of the other man, that of an observer-slash-reader. But all in all, a very human poem. Real, unpretentious. Makes me wonder what happens to each character when they part ways (is either changed, that sort of inquiry).

Cheers.

Jo Janoski said...

Gritty and splendidly descriptive. Good poem!

rch said...

Hi Shirley, I'm definitely more of a Snoopy type character ;)

Hi SL, thanks for your input, I'm never sure with free verse where to end it but I see where it could have gone on. Hmmmm

Hi Jo, thanks I love that, gritty, sums up my life.