At Twelfth Street and Fifth Avenue
in front of the old Longchamps
one frigid winter morning, as
I watched for the bus to come,
I saw a dark unshaven man
whose skin was snowy pale
set up a stand at the corner. He
had bright red apples for sale
a nickel each, but no one stopped
to look: they walked on by.
He stood there coatless, shivering,
with a fever in his eye
until a small blonde shape appeared,
a child of three or four,
who came from nowhere I could see
no one accompanied her.
She wore a blue wool coat, fur-trimmed
to warm her wrists and neck,
fur hat, thick gloves, and leggings to block
the cold from every crack
she ran straight to the tattered man,
hugged him around both knees,
tipped back her head and stared straight up:
I couldnt read her gaze.
And there they stood, she holding fast
as though shed seized her own,
he making no move to escape
but smiling grimly down . . .
I never saw the end, nor learned
what it was those two might tell.
My bus pulled up, I climbed aboard
and was on my way to school.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 19 Number 6, on page 32
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