HOMELESS

Dry sycamore leaves dance
across the fountain's empty basin,
skirting a dead rat. The wind
that blew crumpled newspaper
from a homeless man found dead
this morning barely stirs
the rat's matted fur. This,
and a sunbasking garden snake,
flattened. I have seen two
dead animals today, a day
like any other when I cross
the park, averting my eyes
from men who sleep on benches.
None now in noon's bright heat
that circles the carcass, with flies.
Newsprint stains my fingers,
the words blurring into my skin -
a sunrise runner saw a rat
scurry from the corpse she found
in this park's center.
The metal, glass and porcelain
rats and mice I have collected
fill a shadow box that trims
my bedroom wall. But I screamed
the night a mouse scampered
over the carpet. I walk
to the market for bread
but a pile of feathers stops me:
I pluck one, white, from the asphalt.
If I run from this death,
if I run from this . . . .

(c)Margaret J. Tinsley

This poem appeared in New Virginia Review, v.10, n. 2 ??