Red Light, Green Light
by Paul Horton Amidon
A solitary figure at a place
where cars must stop,
old clothes and a cardboard sign
that says "Homeless" or "Need Help,"
he waits like an angler by a stream
with his appeal to sympathy, generosity,
guilt, whatever emotion it can conjure.
His appearance dredges up
a thicket of thoughts about skinflints,
bleeding heart pleas, biblical admonitions,
solicitations that flood my mailbox.
Skinflints aside, all who see him wonder:
"Should I give him something?"
but there is no way to know
if he is deserving, desperate,
down on his luck, or a parasite,
a junkie collecting for his next fix.
The line of cars contracts
as the red light grows old,
bringing me closer, yet I never know,
until the green light brings down
the curtain on this drama,
if I will hand out some money,
or leave the window up and drive on.
Paul Horton Amidon lives in Albany, has assembled a group of poems for a book, pondered its prospects for widespread acceptance, and done nothing with it.