We no longer see that man that crazed old misfit
wander up our house-proud street.
Camped all winter on the subway’s iron grates,
trusts in body-heat, a paper cup for coins.
Stutters to himself some repeated sorrows.
A mutt on a knotted string, always with him, bored.
Filled with his stuff, a borrowed market-cart.
Perhaps he planned to ignore these cold nights
just to get his normal sleep.
I’ve often passed him there.
The system doesn’t work for him.
Seems our all-too-human pity—
arms spread wider than savvy caritas
or bandaged justice will—likewise lets down
a guy in woman’s caftan, broken shoes.
I tell you I saw another one, in antique Rome,
under the plane-trees on crowded Via Formio,
unlikely squalls of rain in June throwing down
whole bunches of young leaves on darkened stones.
I remember still.
Wouldn’t it be the same long ago?
I’ve read that hard on ninety, Sistine done with,
far from his giant boy-David—infirm, appalled,
sank down on those steps by the tourists’ burbling fountains,
in deaf tears for all the friends he used to know.