Moses at the Bridge
Beneath the overpass,
Northeast Washington. Seven a.m.
He shakes an olive branch
at the oncoming cars,
an armored humanity
impervious to the morning blessings
he doles out like pizza flyers.
A crucifix fashioned from twigs
and shoestrings dangles
around his neck. He wears no shoes.
His eyes are pale like the water
that spills down his chin when he drinks;
skin singed red by the sun,
hair matted, greasy.
He has worked this road
for twenty years without compensation –
no one stops. No one
says anything. No
brother, what’s your name?
No thank you’s. No resentment.
He remains a fixture on a fluid road.
Cars press on in their traffic ignorance
fixed to three colors that change
faster than a person’s disposition.
He waves them on. Peace brothers
and sisters! Peace! He laughs.
I am a priest, he says.
I am their priest.
He was born in the woods (he says),
had eight brothers and sisters (all dead now),
served in Vietnam. What he owns
he carries in his pocket. He has dug graves
buried his wife, both children.
He has traveled to the moon
soothed Christa McAuliffe’s fears,
knows John Glenn awfully well.
Don’t feel sorry for him (he says).
He has what he needs –
a plastic water jug,
four full cigarettes,
a half-eaten candy bar.
He is untangled by worries.
He answers to no one.
A woman in a Civic stops.
Her head bobs to some unheard melody,
fingers snapping, lips mouthing
lyrics like prayer –
to who’s watching over her –
unconcerned over the blessing
she’s just received.