I see him every day.
The same black man
Sitting on a stoop
On Lexington Avenue.
His face caked with grime
Making it impossible
to guess his age.
Short, curly white ringlets
Frame his face.
He can’t afford to go to the barber –
but his hair never seems to grow.
The inner lining of his torn, frayed raincoat
has fallen down and threads
hang in all the right places.
It’s three sizes too big and dwarfs his
lean, muscular frame.
A plaid shirt hangs stiffly on stooped shoulders.
Large pleated pants are held up
by a belt cinched around a small waist.
Gray socks that once were white
have two large holes
exposing toes crusted with dirt.
He smells; a deep, dank putrid
Odor that assails my nostrils,
The warm summer months.
With his dark eyes, he watches the
People who walk by.
Never tired of putting his hand out and
Asking anyone who strolls past him:
“Please, something to eat.”
He smiles with that toothless grin
A sweaty, paunchy middle-aged man,
Who has completed his morning run
emerges from the bagel store with two bagels –
One for himself and
One for The Man
A dapper, young man with a pressed
Pinstriped shirt and gray suit runs to catch the
Subway for his first day of work and is complimented.
“You look nice in your suit. Good luck!”
He is rewarded with a crisp $5 bill,
which is stuffed quickly into his right sock.
To the tired mom with dirty blond hair
who looks like she just tumbled
Out of bed, he calls out:
“Where are your children?”
Startled, she digs into her pocket for change.
He doesn’t wear a watch, but notices my
Quick stride when I am late for school.
Unhesitating he will admonish:
“Don’t be late for school!”
But today I have a half hour to get to school.
I take a leisurely stroll down
Lexington Avenue, stopping at
Starbucks to indulge in a refreshing frappuccino
Bathed in whip cream and caramel sauce.
As I slurp the sweet concoction,
I amble by his familiar stoop.
But it’s empty.
There’s no one to notice that
I am not late for school.
Tomorrow I’ll wake up early
To find him.
Jennifer Yeoh-Wang, Age 17, Grade 12, The Chapin School, Silver Key