As I finish meditating in the park,
He stands before me; defeated and dark.
I’m in a peaceful state,
So I choose love, over hate.
He asks me for a dollar, I say sure.
He asks for a burger, I agree to give more.
And I listen.
He only has a few teeth that I can see,
Yet he speaks English, perfectly.
He tells me that he’s an educated man,
But nine months ago, things had stopped going to plan.
“I don’t do drugs, and I don’t even drink,
But people are afraid of me, why do you think?”
I look at him and I don’t know what to say back,
“I already know” he says, “it’s because I’m black.”
“To be heard, I have to approach not one, but ten,
The women sometimes help me, but never the men.”
“Thank you, for not being afraid of me,
I wish that everyone saw, what it is that you see.”
I ask him his name,
He asks me the same.
Mario and Cherry, an unlikely pair;
We can’t help notice, the people stare.
He extends his arm, to shake my hand;
I hold it firmly, as though taking a stand.
I point; there’s a burger place straight ahead.
He sighs; “what I really need, is a bed.”
I’m sorry, I can only offer you some food.
I wonder if he senses, the shift in my mood.
“Please, I just want to shower, and to sleep tight,
There’s a place down the street, $15 per night.”
He shows me a flyer; rehab for the homeless.
“This starts tomorrow, it gives hope, to the hopeless.”
I look at his face, maybe he is someone’s dad;
White-hair, runny nose, his eyes are clear, but sad.
The only way to know how the money will be spent,
Is to go to the hostel, and pay for his rent.
I try to hand him a $20 bill,
But he doesn’t take it, standing still.
“I need to know that you believe me;
Do you trust me, with your money?”
There is desperation in his voice,
Yet he gives ME, the choice.
I realize then, that he doesn’t need charity;
He needs to be seen, to be heard, to feel equality.
I try to imagine how it would feel,
Every look of doubt, calling my pain, unreal.
I believe in you, I say, urgently;
The same way that you need to believe, in people like me.
– Cherry Mangat