Street Corner

It was dark
as the bus braked to a stop;
streetlights glistened in the water
for there was a pool of water by the curb;
he was standing barefoot in it
as he asked drivers to buy his wares.

I had seen him before
in Italy in the rain,
hurrying to fill the gas tank at a self-service station
in exchange for a few pennies of lire.

I had seen him before
     in Chicago
     in New York
     in Delhi,
in big cities filled with poor people.

Often he is the other,
the dark skinned,
or waiting to wash your windshield.

Here in Rio he had a soft smile
and tried to sell the drivers candy.
I wept.

The first time I saw him
I was a salad and pastry cook
in an up-scale Chicago restaurant;
he was Mexican;
he washed the dishes;
he stood ankle deep in water for that task.
I wept.

The rabbi said justice will not be lived
until the jar is filled with tears
as I sit in a darkened bus in Rio,
watching a man smiling,
watching a man begging
as he stands ankle deep in water.

Rio de Janeiro, June, 1992

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