Night Witness


Night Witness

The darkest night cannot hold out
against morning’s first light.

He shivers in the wind
nondescript yet noticeable
frame slightly stooped
he carries some years
a visage scored by time
white hair spills from his cap
soft eyes wear a quizzical look
he surveys the surroundings
pulls the cap over his ears
shrinks into an upturned collar
shuffles off with the crowd.

He stops at an arcade looks in
dots of light spin floor to ceiling
music pounds overloud
folks of all ages play games
he’s jostled by a passerby falls
people scurry past he raises a hand
a girl runs over to help
he reaches for the child
the mother steps in
scolds her daughter hurries her away
the youngster looks back smiles
the old man steadies himself
rises hobbles off.

He enters the City Park
stops at a War Memorial
removes his cap steps back
affects a military bearing
hand over his heart
a siren wails from the street
the old man flinches
a young man runs by
tosses a bottle at the monument
shouts obscenities runs from the park
the old man trembles
looks back at the memorial
salutes then ambles away.

He stops at a church
an austere stone edifice
spires pierce the dark sky
a homeless man
huddles on the steps hand out
the old man searches his pockets
finding nothing his eyes apologize
he offers his cap the man nods
the old man kneels
places the cap on the vagrant’s head
then enters the church.

Weary he rests in a back pew
in front a man and woman in prayer
at the altar a rectangular table
a candlestick loaf of bread
the sanctuary is cold
the old man shudders stands up
gestures toward the praying couple
pauses shrugs leaves
past the homeless man
hand still outstretched.

The city is quiet
alone on the streets
the old man totters on
stops at a public library
labors up the steps
doors are open lights on
he looks in sees no one
debris blows in from the street
tables and chairs are askew
he passes under a sign
-Knowledge Lives Here-
inside he looks around
walks over to shelves of books
picks one it crumbles in his hands
the ghosts of words drift to the floor.

Outside first light frames the cityscape
the old man slumps in a chair
rests his head in his hands and weeps.

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This Poems Story

Sociocultural breakdown.