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The Church of Edmund

Edmund sat on the corner in front of the Fourth
Presbyterian Church. He rattled a battered
McDonald’s cup at passersby, Excuse me, could you
help me get a shower? Sir? Lady?

His eyes were tired, very tired. No one
stopped, no one dropped anything into
his cup. Someone had earlier,
I looked into the cup and there were
a few pennies, at least one nickel, and maybe
a dime. No quarters had been given that I saw.

I passed by him twice. I had other
business at the church. During
a break, I took a walk around
the block and saw Edmund a second time. I sat
down next to him and introduced
myself. It was a warm September
evening and the sun was still up,
though low and soon to set. I
asked him his name, he told me he
was Edmund. I shook his hand.

Before I go any further with
this—what is this? What do I
think I’m doing here? What did I
think I was doing when I sat down
on the curbing next to Edmund on
the corner in front of the Fourth
Presbyterian Church?

He told me he was homeless. He said
he’d been hit on the head with
a baseball bat, Here, he said, and he
showed me the place on the back
of his head. He said he’d been
a dealer, cocaine and heroin, and he’d
done time. I asked him if he was
clean and he said, Yes, I never used,
man, you can’t use it and sell it.
He said, I flat-lined for ninety-six
seconds, now I’m homeless and need a shower
and a place to sleep for the night.

I don’t know what I was
doing, I don’t know why I sat beside
him and talked with him, I’m no
saint, I’m not saving any part
of this world. I don’t know why
I’m writing this except writing stuff like
this is part of what I do. I gave Edmund
a twenty-dollar bill and told him, God
bless, and shook his hand again,
and don’t want you for a moment
to think I’m a good person for it,
I’m sitting here in this church at
a meeting of well-housed, well-fed people,
one of whom is me, and as far as I know,
Edmund is still sitting on the corner shaking
his McDonald’s cup, and even if he’s not and
that twenty helped him off the street tonight,
he’s almost certain to be back on the corner,
some corner, come tomorrow and the days after that.

Published inEconomicsOniontownPoemsWords

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