Knowing I was wrong my custom
was to walk past and pretend
they weren’t there, like everyone else.
Some people are afraid of them--
I never was, but I was
critical and suspicious.
They kept showing up.
Then Francis was asked
what should we do
and he said Give them
some money; look in their eyes,
and that popped my logjam.
I loaded up my wallet with fives & tens,
which takes some planning,
and resolved to do as he said.
Probably wouldn’t work in Calcutta; 
easy enough in Napa.
Just have to staunch that gush
of saintliness that flushes
your heart, remind yourself
you’re just a beggar too.
Look in their eyes.

Brad Shurmantine

Brad Shurmantine lives in Napa, Ca. He spends time writing, reading, tending three gardens (sand, water, vegetable), keeping bees, taking care of chickens and cats, and working on that “husband” thing. His fiction and personal essays have been published in Pettigru Review, Potato Soup Journal, and Every Day Fiction; his poetry has been published in Oddball Magazine, Jam and Sand, and Mom Egg. He backpacks in the Sierras and travels when he can, and has a serious passion for George Eliot. 

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