A Spring tide lapped over the river boardwalk
And left a salty puddle in my path.
I had to sidestep, and then noticed
The outstretched hand holding a polystyrene cup:
Universal logo of the homeless and the lost.
He squatted low and almost foetal,
Looking every inch an unperson
Stripped of dignity, beyond shame,
Thrown there by the tide.
The wet hostel of St. Vincent de Paul
Does not open until five o'clock.
I felt a pang of guilt and fumbled for some coins,
Sliding them into the cup.
He lowered it with trembling hands
To count the Dutch Gold inside.
"Sank you wery match" he mumbled.
Romanian, I thought, or maybe from Ukraine.
How can his life be better here than there?
Ten minutes later, I folded a scarlet napkin
And wrapped it tightly round the Pyrex coffee cup.
My troubled thoughts subsided
As the first sweet mouthful of latte hit my throat.
Under the scarlet napkin
The logo on my cup read Starbucks.
But still the nagging thought remains:
What made his life of crushable polystyrene,
Mine of toughened glass?
Perhaps that salty puddle was made of tears.