I was walking the downtown streets
swerving right and left.
“Excuse me,” was said, seeing only feet.
It was the holidays but I felt bereft
of any hope for the new year.
Standing at the corner waiting
for the crosswalk to clear
I see a man with a sign stating
that anything would help him
fight the hunger of homelessness.
People fill the street where cars had been.
I try to keep my eyes motionless.
Don’t look and you won’t see,
I told myself as I step to the curb
but he reaches for me
I turn to him perturbed.
“Why me,” I whisper to no one.
“You look lost, young man,”
He answers. I am stunned
to silence and I simply stand
while he lets go of my arm.
“Do you want to see my dreams?”
He asks me. I step back alarmed.
“No, wait.” From the pocket of his jeans
he pulls out a handful of paper pieces.
Waiting on me, I nod yes.
A smile fills his face with creases
He gives me one from the mess.
A tattered slip with smudged words.
“Write a book” I read.
“These are my dreams. Like birds
I keep them safe and clean
from the hardships of this life.”
He sees the question in my eyes,
“I had a son, daughter and wife.
Fulfilling that dream is my demise.”
His voice broke and slow tears appeared
on his weathered cheeks
I started to speak but feared
not hearing the story’s peak.
“I lived my greatest dream, a joyful family
My son, one, daughter was three
Yes, it was a fairy tale, happily
we were. But listen to me…”
The crowd flows around us.
Nobody touches me, invisible we
seem to be to the holiday bustle.
“I couldn’t keep the dream close to me.
It was Christmas 10 years ago.
I worked late so I could stay home
an extra day. Traveling in the snow
a truck ran a light. From a phone
call I learned of losing my dream.”
Silently, I stared back in time
with this man. Forever, it seemed,
before he could speak the next line.
“That New Year’s day I wrote
all the things I wanted to do in
this life on paper. I broke
seven blisters on my skin.
Now I hold them all close
so that they won’t be taken away.”
He grabs from my hand enclosed
his dream of writing someday.
“My heart can’t handle another loss.
Be careful young man with this,
tapping my chest. “The cost
of reaching a goal is not bliss.”
He turns from me and sits
with his sign and the past.
From my pocket I pull a shopping list
I decide to write something fast.
I rip the paper in two.
I hand a piece to the man
with a word he knew.
Silently, he folded it in his hand.
The second piece I hold
with a word I read aloud.
Then I let it go into the cold
wind. His eyes a storm cloud.
“Believe,” I repeated the word.
I move into the crowded lane
hoping, but knowing it absurd
that he would let go of the “Pain.”