Church and . . . Secular?
A few of the numerous downtown Catholic churches
offer free bread and coffee in the morning hours
over the protests of the surrounding well-to-do neighbors.
Beggars, often elderly widows,
along with grubby, unshaven oldsters,
hold out beseeching palms in the church courtyards,
whispering “Bless you” when you give them a “limosna.”
Occasionally, as with the Bolivian musicians on the train,
there is a touch of humor in all this suffering.
A male friend was passing one of the cathedrals
when a diminutive, grey-haired grandmother,
dressed in sedate widow’s black, approached him.
Taking him gently by the sleeve,
her eyes lowered modestly,
she asked him politely if he would care to participate
in a specific sexual act.
My friend was shocked momentarily into speechlessness.
Finally finding his voice, stammering in embarrassment,
he gasped, “No, no, Señora, no, thank you!”
The little old lady looked at him in horror,
and stammered in turn,
“Oh, no, Señor, not I, it is the girls yonder –“
gesturing toward a gaudy group of streetwalkers
loitering near a dim doorway—
“They give me a peso for every man I bring over.”
A timid smile.
“Would you please just go over there with me
so I may earn a peso?”
My friend, his face flaming, hurriedly pushed a peso
Into the old woman’s hand
and quickly walked away.
poetryrepairs #241 v17.10:111
The City Beggars
At the stoplight on the magnificent 9th of July Avenue,
the renowned “widest street in the world,”
two or three young jugglers will appear
in front of your vehicle,
faces French-mime painted.
Dressed in gay, shopworn harlequin costumes,
The boys toss colored balls or dumbbells
into the air,
laughing and clowning.
A ball falls to the ground and is quickly scooped up
with an apologetic shrug and a grin.
Just before the traffic light changes to green
they come smiling to your car window,
holding out a cap,
requesting “Una moneda, Señora?” “A coin, Lady?”
Two blocks from where I live
a distinguished, white-haired old man
in an ancient tuxedo, clutching a violin,
approaches the cars at the corner when the light turns red
and serenades them with a patchy sonata.
At the meeting of six busy turn-around streets
circling a typical General on Horseback monument
a plump, youngish man waits until the traffic halts,
lifts a trumpet to his lips,
and regales the trapped listeners
with a truly superb Mozart solo.
There are no orchestras now, classical or otherwise,
and talented musicians go begging -- literally.
poetryrepairs #241 v17.10:111
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