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Volta
Poetry

The Arrogance of American Triumphalism

Imagine this:
a city of generic stores and mass media,
of unions, minorities,
and centrist liberals who have forgotten
their grassroots issues; a progression
of politicos, hardened by years
of prowling streets
colonized by pickpockets and prostitutes.

Imagine this:
a city of buildings that seem
to burn in early morning sunlight
but only after rays scorch away smog
that shrouds these tombstones-in-waiting.

And imagine this:
the city's slow-motion suicide,
blood sliding down streets
of gold bullion, draining into rain gutters,
dried in crevices by dusk. Renowned
abstractions--liberty, justice, freedom, others--
ripped apart in a nondescript office park
by a wagon full of dynamite
one 1920 noon.

In the end, see this:
not a real city so much as a theme.



THE CHRISTMAS FEAST

The scene was any busy street
Big metropolis, USA
Whether or not the tale is true
This author cannot say
He wore torn and tattered rags
That had once perhaps been clothes
Now so soiled with filth and dirt
They caused many a wrinkled nose
Greasy hair and sour breath
Skin coated with soil and grime
He fairly reeked of wine and whiskey
And the slow, aching march of time
His age couldn't be determined
No one got close enough to tell
He was mostly skin and bones
An emaciated human shell
He begged for coins from strangers
Who gave, then hurried past......
Nickels, quarters, sometimes a dollar
It was his only source of cash
Most assumed that he would eat
Once he'd collected a stack of dimes
But usually whatever he amassed
Was spent on cheap, red wine
Where he came from, no one knows
One day he'd just appeared
And had been a downtown fixture now
For many, many years.......
Wintertimes were the hardest
With the wet and freezing weather
The city's homeless usually huddled
At the shelter all together
But the church's rules were very strict
And that made it very sad......
No alcohol was allowed and booze
Was the only friend he had.....
So instead of the heated shelter
He always slept outdoors......
With a bottle of wine close by his side
And hard pavement as a floor.
But this year he was fortunate
A broken window at the rear
Of an old, abandoned warehouse
Made his choice so crystal clear
At the dead end of an alley
That progress had passed by
The small and barren room was his
He never stopped to question why...
Unheated yes, but the icy winds
Wouldn't penetrate his bones
He wanted only to spend the winter
Undiscovered here alone....
One night close to Christmas
He shuffled slowly down the street
Counting coins trying to decide
Whether he should drink or eat....
Then checking through a garbage can
He saw , barely peeking out
The small, uneaten end of a sub
And knew without a doubt
That this could be his supper!
He'd save the money for his wine
Taking both back to his little room
Where he would sit alone and dine!
As he clambered through the window
The piece of sandwich in his hand
He carried under his other arm
A gallon jug----his favorite brand!
He spread newspaper carefully
On the icy concrete floor
Then neatly laid the tiny sandwich
At the center of page four.......
The jug held a place of honor
Close by his right knee
When all at once he heard a noise
And glanced quickly up to see....
Through the broken window pane
A face as dirty as his own
But younger......no more than a boiy
Standing solemnly there alone......
The stranger was quite slender
As well as very wet
The freezing rain had soaked him through
He was as sodden as he could get!
The old drunk was very startled
But sober enough to recognize
The faniliar look of misery
Reflected in the youngster's eyes
"Get on in here......at least its dry!"
"I reckon you're hungry, too!"
"I ain't got much, but I can share
What I have here with you!"
The young boy sat and when he smiled
It lit up the tiny room
And seemed to spread a warming glow
Like a rose in sudden bloom
The bum then took a plastic knife
And with a silly little laugh......
"Ain't much.....but it'll do" he said
Cutting the tiny morsel just in half
When the boy reached out to take his piece
The drunk pushed him back in place,
"Ain't time yet!" he gruffly barked
"We haven't said the grace!!"
Then he bowed his greasy head
Over folded, filthy hands
And thanked God for providing
All the simple needs of man
Another noise was what he heard
Before he could say "Amen"
He looked up to see the stranger
Had vanished like he'd never been!!
The bum raced to the window
And looked up toward the street
Unsure, he could have sworn he heard
The sound of running feet.....
Grumbling loudly, he climbed out
"Fool boy, now where's he gone?"
"I have better things to do
Than search the whole night long!"
He looked behind each dumpster
That in the alley stood
And the parking lot across the street
But the boy seemed gone for good!
He gave a sympathetic sigh
Then turned back to his place
He knew the boy'd been hungry
For he'd seen it in his face........
"Well, I tried" the drunk thought sadly
Climbing through the window once again
"Some folks ain't got the sense to know
When they have found a friend!"
He jumped down from the wooden sill
And turned to face page four
His rickety heart skipped several beats
As his eyes focused on the floor!
He stood completely motionless
Not daring to even breathe
He shut his eyes then rubbed them hard
Unable to believe!!
The tiny scrap of sandwich
That he had cut in two.......
Had been replaced with a kingly feast
A magical dream come true!!
Platters of thick-sliced juicy meats
Roast beef and tender ham
Serving dishes piled with vegetables....
Potatoes, corn and yams!
Fresh-baked bread and buttery rolls
All this food for only one??
The old drunk stared in paralyzed shock
Wondering what on earth he'd done!
Had he somehow passed away?
Had he died and gone to heaven?
He checked the rusty, wind-up clock
It said ten past eleven......
He'd only been gone ten minutes or so
Out searching for the boy......
So who'd had time to spread this feast
And not stayed to enjoy??
The drunk's heart hammered loudly
As he noticed a setting for only one
And as he stared he heard a voice
"Sit down and eat , My son......"
He staggered back against the wall
He could see no one there
"Come out now and show yourself!"
He yelled into the frigid air.
Again he heard the kindly voice,
"Don't be afraid.......I heard your grace"
"The hand of God moves everywhere......
Even this stark and lonely place!"
"You're really God?" the bum then asked
In a trembling, fearful tone
"Does this mean I'm about to die?
Here freezing and all alone?"
The voice then chuckled softly
"Yes, I'm really God the Father.....
And I wish that you'd sit down and eat
Since I went through all this bother!"
The bum then slowly moved to sit
Before the wondrous, massive feast.....
"You gonna have some too," he asked
"There's enough to say the least!!"
The voice then chuckled once again
"I think not...........but eat your fill
I've enjoyed your prayers for many years
And I am with you still......
Your path in life's not easy
You've had bitter roads to trod
But through it all you've never lost
Your trust and faith in God......
You've never failed to say thank-you
Or help others when you could
Your appearance may be less than fine
But your heart is true and good!
Most Christian folks would turn away
From your kind, it is true......
And that's a shame, for they could learn
So much of Me through you!
Your time on earth's not over
There'll still be cause to grieve
But I have come to pay this visit
Because you have chosen to believe
That I wait for you in heaven
And when your earthly journey's done
I'll be waiting at the gate saying
"Welcome home.......well done!!"
The drunk sat with his belly full
And tears streaming down his face......
That little, barren, freezing room
Now seemed such a holy place!!
The very next day was Christmas Eve
And as he bought not one, but two
Gallon jugs.............he made a toast
"Cheers God........from me to You!!!!!!

Dusty Tincher
Winston-Salem, NC

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