Monday, July 31, 2017


Empathy Blows Away

His feet are swollen and barefoot
and blackened
by what started as hardship
but now probably is disease.
He shuffles his way onto the train
a stick of wood in his hand
cloth draped over his shoulders,

I need help, he says
near tears
Can’t you see, I’m about to break down? he asks.
Can you see?

Everyone shuffles left or right
looks up or down as he passes
avoids looking directly
even as they dig out change or dollars

I don’t even have shoes, he says, his voice breaking.
If everyone on this train gave me a dollar
I would have enough to buy shoes.
I wouldn’t have to be barefoot.

Can’t you see I’m about to lose it?
Can’t you see I’m falling apart?

Please, ma’am, stop staring at my feet
he shouts from the other end of the train.

Mama, the little girl next to me says,
that man has no shoes.


No Mama, he’s barefoot
did you see his toes?
Should we give him money, Mama?

Will you be quiet? her mother says tugging at her braids.

But Mama, he has no shoes.

Listen up, she says
That is his fault. You hear me?
We all make our choices in this world.
You will be best served to remember that.

And I watch the little girl look from her feet
to his
and back to hers again
as empathy turns light as a dead leaf

and blows away.

--Ally Malinenko

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