by Allen Cohen

Walking down Cole street
           any sunny day,
                    no one knows for how long,

You can see,
          if your eyes are open,
                    Charlie, the Cole street saint,

usually hanging in
          on a bench or stoop,
                    or rolling down the street

Toward the uce cream palour,
          0r waddling up the street
                    toward the Zen bakery.

He looks like Humpty Dumpty
          hastily put back together again.
                    But if you're addicted to appearances,

you might see what is rudely called
          a Mongoloid idiot and feel
                    a tinge of pity and walk away

into the obsession of your own darkness.
          But if you walk right up to Charlie,
                    he will light you up

like a candle in a dark room -
          he will pierce your street armour
                    and you will be a naked child again.

Red faced, smiling, tongue hanging out
          he will take your hand and
                   throw his arms around you,

as if you were his prodigal son returning.
          He will press you firmly against his body
                   and if you close your eyes (try it!),

you will be immersed
          in the glow of selfless love.
                   Then he will ask you for a quarter

for ice cream or a cupcake
          and when you give it to him
                    he will bubble and bounce with joy -

he will hug you again until
          there is enough sunlight within you
                   to melt the most frozen heart.

Charlie is the cheapest saint in town
          and he is accessible to all
                   dispensing innocence to his sidewalk flock.

But be discreet -
          there is a fragility to goodness -
                   and Charlie will be your friend

and you will be close to the heart of life.

© Allen Cohen. All rights reserved.

This poem is included in Allen Cohen's newest book, "Like A Radiant Dove".