Poem 20141225

my fist time in san francisco alone
at night I went for a walk
leaving the comfort of my hotel

i don’t remember
what street i had turned
but there were bars
and people spilling out onto the street
and in the gutter
a broken bottle of liquor

so many men and women on the street
so cold

i was bundled up
against the cold
and a man approached me
asking for money

and i told him no
i had told myself when i left the hotel
that i wasn’t going to give anyone money
on the street

i didn’t even speak to him when he asked
cheerfully
for some change or a buck
just shook my head and kept my head down
and kept moving
and kept my wallet in my pocket
along with my freezing hands

an old woman
who looked like she could have been eighty
wearing a knit cap
asked me as well
and with far fewer teeth
for anything i could spare
“please,” she said, “please”

and i remembered my grandmother
who had wasted away in a nursing home bed
i gave her five dollars
and didn’t say anything to her either
even after she said “god bless you”

i had to walk past the man who had asked
for money before
he laughed at me and said
“you’ll give her money, but not me”
but i kept my head down
but i kept moving

and when i got back to the hotel
the bed was shit
and i had a hard time falling asleep by myself
and i was still better off than every person
i had seen that night
just not better