Nobody knows you when you’re down and out

Photo: WHB – DEc.2020

Blood and Fire

He sat cross-legged
on the unyielding flagstones
by the shop door
I had passed him before
unheeding his silent pleading
oblivious to his mute despair

But today on an unconsidered whim
as I passed
I tossed a coin into his cardboard cup –
re-commissioned from his last drink
to become the gateway to his next

A bronzed pound contributed
to his empty begging bowl
there on the pavement
at his feet
between his crossed legs
mutely pleading

No visible response
no murmur of gratitude
no nod of his already drooped head

It was then I saw
my turpitude exposed
my benevolence tainted
Generosity can’t be expressed with a coin
nor even with a blank cheque
Self does not glow through empty gestures
neither on earth
nor in heaven
can satisfaction be purchased so readily

And so I wrote my cheque
sending it to be consumed in ‘Blood and Fire’
along with my frailty, my paralysis
and the salve of my conscience

The great Alberta Hunter, who had a comeback at age 83, singing “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” written originally by Jimmie Cox for Bessie Smith.

Alberta Hunter “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”

2 thoughts on “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out

Comments are closed.