BUM RAP 1948
Ahead, on the icy windswept roadside, a flapping figure
in topcoat, rumpled and stained, button threads hanging,
eyes dull agates turned inward, unwatching as he thumbs his question.
Wife objects, but I brake and stop, and he from other worlds,
gets into ours, into the warm car.
He stares absently asks only how far, not where, and mumbles,
"I'm no hobo, I got prospects. I had a lotta bad luck in my life,
the little guy always get screwed." Then he retreats beyond smalltalk.
We drop him off at a cold crossroads with gritty cafe,
another station on his shuffle to a bleak Calvary.
I slip him a buck, "for soup" but he’s quick to ask for another,
“for the pie and coffee” so I ante up more conscience.
He goes, leaving behind a sharp raft of flophouse disinfectant.
Wife complains, “It will only go for drink. Two dollars is too much
on top of a ninety mile ride. Besides, he was ungrateful.”
I wondered why he was so truly damned,
like genetic chaff expelled from evolutionary grist,
blown into a hundred blind alleys, doomed without survival DNA.
There, but for the grace of God, go I?
A million miles down that road I am still without answer.
H.C. Klingman 1998