He slumped thin and hunched against the night

and winter rain,

seeking the dry of a deep doorway

as New Year’s revelers passed, unseeing and unseen.


And when they were gone,

when the only sound in the dark was singing and violins

whipped aloft by December wind

he moved, scurried like a street rat around the building

to the looming green dumpsters behind.


We saw him as we parked our van, crouching

under his cloak of invisibility,

a disappearing shadow.

We locked the van.


On the sidewalk in front of the church

I saw him again. A fiver in my hand,

I handed my purse to my husband because

you never know, do you, and walked over

to the thin man in sweats,

toboggan cap and puffy jacket.

“Here,” I said. “Happy New Year,”

and moved quickly



“God bless you,” he said. “God bless you.

Be careful driving tonight,

with this rain it can be dangerous. I see

a lot of things, here on this street.

People aren’t careful, they go too fast,

always in a hurry. Only the other day I saw

a lady on her phone, walking, and this car comes

and hits her, rolls her right over the hood.”

His blue eyes surprised me with their youth

and clarity.


“Lady in the car used her phone to call 911.

They came and got the one who was hit. I don’t know

if she was killed or what. You got to be careful these days.

The things I see on this street, you wouldn’t believe.”


We opened the church doors,

the strains of Irish fiddle and laughter

spilling with the light onto wet pavement.

“Good night,” we said. “Happy New Year.”

“Take care of yourself,” I said, as if he could.

“You two have a blessed new year,” he called, and waved a bony arm.

The door closed and warmth surrounded us.

His eyes followed us inside.


He stayed in my mind, that young-old skinny man

trudging towards the convenience store.

Maybe a couple horse quarts on his mind,  or smokes that would trail

blue and ethereal into the night.

I thought of hs eyes,

bright blue surrounded by shaggy brows and beard

but young, late forties. The age of my oldest son.

He could have been my son.


He could have been my son, or yours, somewhere his mother

wonders where her boy is, and if he’s well

and warm and in the light

and if he’s surrounded by people, and music,

love and laughter.

He could have been my son.

He could.



About grannysu

storyteller, writer, poet, gardener, countrywoman
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2 Responses to GoodNight

  1. Libby says:

    Sad but all too frequent. Beautifully expressed in this poem.

  2. grannysu says:

    Thank you, Libby. As you say, too frequent in our cities. I don’t witness it often since I’m a country dweller, so perhaps that is why it had such impact.

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