Alms

by Duncan Forbes
(Cincinnati, Ohio)

An old man sat near Notre Dame
and voiceless did his hand extend,
few glimpses know the vacancy
his gaze averted did portend.
I let two coins alight within his palm,
in gesture shaped by maudlin reverie;--
unlike one woman in the temple's midst,
who gave her last--her all--my charity
was balm for guilt en route to lunch
and wine,
in bistro where the goblets don't reflect
a fustian coat, brown teeth and raffish
scarf,
A Frenchman's so romantic poverty...
had he been an American would I
have felt disdain and passed him
quickly by?

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