by Leana McClellan
She is only five,
my child who stands rooted
watching the homeless man pace.
He shakes fists at the sky
howls curses that jolt her
though she doesn’t understand the words.
His clothes are torn to fringe
like a performer in a lunatic rodeo.
A mini voyeur in Cabbage Patch sweats
she looks for him everyday on our vacation.
He eats, arranges his cardboard boxes,
talks to people, and sleeps on the corner
of 19th and Chestnut Street
in full view of the world and my little girl.
She asks the important questions,
“Where is his mother?”
“Where does he go to the bathroom?”
“What does he do in the winter?”
“Why doesn’t he go home?”
I answer, “I don’t know, I don’t know,
I just don’t know, he doesn’t have one.”
Months later at home I say,
“Looks like it will turn cold tonight.”
At my words she rushes outside.
I watch through the window
as she lies on her back on the pavement
arms at her sides and closes her eyes.
Unmoving as a forgotten doll,
she samples sidewalk sleep.
This poem is my mother’s take on the Cardboard Box Man, who I wrote about yesterday.