The Poetry Bar

Tom the vet

he’s standing near the subway entrance
at 44th and 8th
a thin white man
medium height with bright eyes
dressed in slightly worn blue jeans
and a nice striped shirt
that he’s had on
for a few too many days

he’s underdressed for the winter day
holding a 5 by 8 piece of lined white paper
wants money no doubt
seems to be in his 30s
but you never can tell

he says his name is Tom
and is a vet
i’m thinkin’ iraq war

as he speaks i notice his bad teeth
misaligned with maybe one missing
not quite the british look
more west virginia

he performs his script
like a ball rolling down a hill
bumping along
haltingly picking up steam

he occasionally points to the paper
which has letters and numbers
in several sizes shapes colors
and handwritten fonts

he lives in a shelter in new jersey
can stay there as long as he’s workin’
just lost his job
went to the city for a couple of interviews
thinks he maybe landed a gig in brooklyn
gotta get back to the shelter now

he says he got MS
from his mom

the disease is supposed to
skip a generation
but didn’t
in his case

he likes this corner we’re on
it’s as far from port authority
as he can handle

it’ll cost him twenty nine fifty to get home
nineteen fifty for one bus, ten dollars for another
he shows this to me
on the piece of paper
written proof

i hand him thirty bucks
his face lights up
like a kid
who just got a case of candy

he asks where he can get
something cheap to eat

i point down 44th toward 9th
there’s a pizza place
right off the corner

he hesitates
says he don’t want to
lose his spot

i say it’s one block there
and one block back

as he walks away
i notice his limp

David Belmont is a mixed media artist and community organizer living in New York City. He writes memoir, short fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in The Poeming PigeonWildflower Muse and FishFood Magazine. He is currently co-music director of the Castillo Theatre. You can find his blog at:


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