The Beggar Woman Who Does Not Beg

When I lived in San Diego I worked at a downtown bank which was about six blocks from where my co-worker and I parked our car. Which obviously means were drove/rode in together. We parked where it was cheap…thus the six block walk. Being downtown where there was a grassy park and nice benches and fast food stores with cheap coffee, we passed many homeless on that six block walk. My friend always gave them her loose change. I never did, but I did give each one a smile. And then one day I wrote this poem…

The Beggar Woman Who Does Not Beg

Hunched and plodding,
head averted for a moment as we pass, her very smallness seems to shrink her stature more
as if to say, “no, don’t look, don’t see my tattered self.”

Chin to chest, her eyes cast sideways to see if I am watching.

She catches me tossing the air a small, apologetic smile
– and I am caught off guard –
Bubbling through her being, I glimpse
some deep and handsome invincibility
manifested now on her haggard face
and see there is great beauty in her toothless grin.

Suddenly our vulnerability is gone,
taking with it the narrowness of the path we tread,
the largeness of the distance between us.

The possessions piled upon the cart she pushes
throw off their shabby-seeming meagerness
to show me the riches of self-immediacy.

I am, for that lingering moment,
lifted far above the frail and beggarly, superficial mask we wear
to see the true countenance of humanity.

PCL 1988

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