You will see him at the corner, by the side of the fruit and vegetable stand most days. He remains silent as he holds a torn, dirty paper cup for passersby to put their change in. His face slick with dirt, makes it difficult to tell his age or his ethnicity. His coat and pants are filthy, it’s impossible to make out their original colors.
I don’t know what made that day different, but on that morning I walked over to him. I held a five-dollar bill between two fingertips, focused on not touching the cup as I made my donation.
As I drew closer, I noticed his beautiful green eyes and could not help staring. I didn’t mean to smile at him, but I couldn’t help myself, those gorgeous green eyes seemed to twinkle in the sunlight. He stood up suddenly, surprising me for a moment.
It was too late for me to change my forward trajectory. My right hand connected with his left shoulder in not quite a punch, but more of a push. The five-dollar bill slipped from my fingers. I bent down to pick it up, not noticing he had also reached down. Our skulls collided with a startling clunk, causing both of us to stand straighten up and clutch the top of our heads. It was me who yelled ouch first, he joined in two seconds later as if we were a wailing duet.
We looked at each other a bit surprised, and laughed like two children who had just shared a silly joke. He smiled at me then, and through all the dirt and grime I saw him, a man who had done a lot of living and a lot of suffering.
I would like to tell you that the result of this encounter changed his circumstances. I would like to tell you that after our shared moment we became friends. I would like to, but I can’t because nothing changed. John still lives in the alley by the fruit and vegetable stand and continues to panhandle daily.
We exchange smiles on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when I take the time to place a bill or two into his cup. I then continue on to the subway pretending everything is okay as I wait for my day to start, and my petty worries to overshadow the thoughts of a man, living out his life in an alley on the busy streets of Brooklyn.
Arlene is a poet of West Indian birth. Additional poetry and flash fiction can be found at I am not a silent Poet and elsewhere on the web. Thank you for reading her work.
these words are
spoken behind my back
yelled in my face
i’m so lonely,
is there no one
is a person
no damn good
not worth the
me for my
of my struggles
or my fragile mind
i was once like you,
i had dreams
and plans for my future,
but mistakes caused
missteps that changed
i’ve become a nuisance,
like spilled garbage
laid out on the street
you turn away,
avert your eyes
so, my gaze you
won’t accidentally meet
i have become invisible
yes, i’m the invisible man
unwanted, despised, dejected
does anyone care who i really am?
Bio: Arlene Antoinette believes that everyone has a voice that needs to be heard. Please read her other poems @ I am not a silent Poet, Tuck Magazine and Little Rose Magazine.
Driving to church for the early morning
service, I stopped at a red light and
waited for the green light to send me
on my way. A motorcyclist turned off
the main street onto the side road
where I was stopped, passing my car
on the left. As I watched him ride by, I noticed
a small confederate flag flying from the
rear of his motorcycle seat. For a moment
I was surprised, but I was not shocked. What
shocked me the most was that I, a Brooklynite
at heart, continued to live in a part of America
where the confederate flag is still displayed
proudly. Years earlier, I left New York to find
a quieter way of life. What I was unaware
of back then was that sometimes beautiful
green fields come attached to rifles in the rear
of pick-up truck cabins and confederate flags
decorating license plates, tee-shirts and flag poles.
I glanced once more at the Caucasian man
riding away from me and wondered about
his upbringing, his family, his friends. The
light changed, and I turned left onto the main
road and headed off to praise my God who
is color blind and all inclusive.
Arlene Antoinette is a poet and lyricist. Her work has been published in various journals and magazines.
We were created from dirt. As we
were being formed by the hands
of God, the Sky unwrapped, its blueness
transforming into liquid, the liquid becoming
teardrops which the Sky allowed to fall to earth.
The Sky’s heart swelled as he watched the
miracle of creation being performed by God.
God, never one for waste, used those
tears mixing dirt into mud, molding
mud into man. Man was the most
beautiful of His creations. God looked
at us and thought, perfect. The Sky looked
at us in awe, the weight and brightness
of his awe formed stars, his gift to the
world to honor the new beings.
I look at what we have become. Children
shooting children; kids now learn to duck
for cover. Teachers and parents debate the need
of self-defense courses for kids. State officials fight
over proposals to arm our educators. Reminiscent
of a novel, there’s spy poisoning on a city
street. Nerve gas used to silence a leak, with
no respect for life. No regret for death. Children
are sold into a new kind of slavery. Sex trafficking,
a tearing away of one’s self esteem, one’s future,
one’s soul. Where will it all end?
It raining again and I have to wonder, is it
just raindrops from a Sky still in awe of mankind,
celebrating our creation? Or is it the tears of a God
struggling to cope with a shattered heart?
Arlene Antoinette is a poet and lyricist. Additional pieces by her may be found at: Tuck Magazine and Little Rose Magazine.