On Those Homeless People

My neighbor told me this when at the mailbox we happened to meet
As his wife and he recently hurried along a downtown street
Rushing because they were late for the symphony
One of those street people for whom you have no empathy
Came out of a doorway striving to get their attention
He was filthy beyond belief and too smelly to mention
His clothes were unwashed, ill-fitting, and tattered
Obviously a homeless bum whose existence hardly mattered
They tried to rush past without acknowledging his greeting
They were sure that they would be late for their seating
He blocked their way, asking for money to get something to eat
My neighbor reached for his wallet,the man gazed down at his feet
The money extended, the man raising his head came face to face
His eyes lit up, a smile appeared, and he began talking apace
Turns out, my neighbor said, it wasn't some bum after all
It was his good friend from back in high school named Paul
Seems that Fortune had been rather unkind in recent years
His wife died of cancer at 40, despite all his prayers and tears
Medical bills put his finances very much in arrears
At work he was downsized,while his job went to a factory overseas
He lost his car,his home,no potential employer could he please
Disillusioned,destitute,broken in spirit, he turned to the street
Thus had been his life until my neighbor he happened to meet
My neighbor gave him a couple of twenties, then had to rush away
His wife was upset, the symphony orchestra had begun to play
My neighbor said it bothers him that Paul now lives on the street
He is having bad luck,he's not scum like other homeless you meet
Returning inside I realize my neighbor doesn't get it at all
Can't he see all homeless have relatives or friends like Paul.

Harry Edward Gilleland      08.14.01