Poetry from the archives: A single slice of bread…

‘A single slice of bread…’

Standing in my doorway,
I saw him coming from afar,
a beggar with his mason jar.

House to house he went to,
asking for some change,
a dusty man of forty-some,
that most folk turned away.

Then he came to my house,
asking for some change,
a man without belongings,
who had this to say–

“Just enough to make it by,
I have nothing of my own,
‘sides the rags upon my feet.
Throw a dog a bone?”

I judged this man up and down,
wondered how his story went,
whether he was foul of soul,
where that money would be spent.

“You’ve not a shoe for your foot,
nor glove for either hand.
Can I trust that you won’t spend
this money on the can?”

“Oh no, neighbor, not me, not I.
I have no taste for booze or highs.
But, pray you, spare a single dime,
and I’ll repay you in good time.”

I judged this man front to back,
consid’ring what he said,
then went on to offer him,
a single slice of bread.

“Everyday come to this house–
tomorrow, next day, next–
and you may have what you have here,
a single slice of bread.”

So joyous was this man I fed,
he spun a circle, flushing red.
“Forever this I will remember,
you so generous in gesture.”

And so he went, then next day came,
returning ’round the same time.
Everyday a slice of bread
to his hand passed from mine.

So passed, also, the days and months,
and he was ever present.
If not around, he was at least,
a guest to be expected.

And so it went until one day,
strangely, odd, to my dismay,
though I waited ’round for him,
he did not pass my way.

“What happened to him?” I wondered,
thinking of the worst.
“Perhaps he died – a great misfortune –
perhaps I missed his hearse.”

I wondered how he must have felt,
during his final moments.
I shuddered when I thought of such,
suspecting mighty lonely.

Until one day, ’round that time,
having forgotten the habit,
there was a knock at my door,
and there the beggar was standing.

“Where’ve you been, unfortunate friend?
Kicked the habit of begging?
Or have your bones decided for you
to kick your habit of legging?”

“Ha!” he roared, a mighty laugh,
which brought to my attention,
how ruddy now this beggar looked,
and wrapped in different dressings.

“Curious, this look is new,
could I be misinformed?
Am I now brought to believe
that a suit you have adorned?”

“Ha!” again he roared so merry,
his face lit up and colored cherry.
“Seems, my friend, my luck has turned!
And quite a pretty penny I’ve earned.”

With this point he did spin,
a penny on the dinner table,
then leaned in close, nose to nose,
and swore this to be no fable.

“Yes, indeed, I’m quite well off,”
he said as he spun a nickel,
“and though I’ve grown used to the luck,
I have not grown so fickle…

“See, you’ve been quite kind to me,
and never have I forgot,”
he said as he spun a quarter,
adding it to the pot.

“Every gift you gave to me,
every slice of bread –
if not for you, I’ll have you know,
surely I’d be dead.”

And so he poured a mountain of coins,
copper, silver, and even gold,
and as he poured the table filled,
and every direction they rolled.

He emptied his pockets, then his wallet,
and the table groaned under the weight.
“For you my friend, my friend–a saint!
Who would always give more then take!”

And so he left, but not before,
turning heel at the door.
“I promise this is just the start,
tomorrow I’ll be back with more!”

And so I waited on the porch,
’round that time next day,
but never did I see that beggar,
tramping up my way.

To my porch came a message boy,
and so from head to toe I shivered,
for I knew instinctively,
what that lad had come here to deliver.

He passed to me a document,
of grand-handed penmanship,
the once-beggar’s recompense –
his last will and testament.

With it a letter from the beggar,
thanking me for the days –
a dusty man of forty-some,
that most folk turned away.


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