A Nod to Empathy

I’ve just published a poem, “Transient,” in Poetry Quarterly (issue #30, Summer 2017, which is running a bit behind schedule). Because the magazine is behind a paywall, you would need to purchase a rather expensive printed copy or else subscribe to the online version in order to read it. That being the case, and because the poem is about empathy, a quality sorely needed today, I’ll reproduce it here.

The Poetry Quarterly logo. My poem “Transient” in Issue 30 is a nod to empathy.


A damaged person on the floor,
 filthy, scuffed, like the station itself.
 Above the person hulks a cop, hand
 on holster. The cop smirks and says, get up.
 Get up scumbag and move the hell out.
 His victim tries to stand but slumps back down,
 a person in transit who needs to rest awhile.
 No vagrants in the terminal
 the cop says. Port Authority badge.
 I remember this the only way I can,
 hazily, since I
 was drinking myself.
 All this many years ago, when
 the city’s days were dim and grim.
 What was wrong with that person?
 Couldn’t he/she rise?
 Has karma messed that cop up by now?
 I walk over and see the dull badge
 has no name, only a number. Meanwhile,
 the individual moans.
 We need some help here, I say.
 Some help my ass the cop says.
 He kicks the prone figure once, then leaves.
 I bend down to check:
 that numb stare could yet be anyone’s.
 Yours. Mine.