The Homeless Girl

Angel, a teen-age girl, stood on the steps
Of the great stone church, asking
Passers-by for spare change.
At Thomas Circle in Washington, D.C.
The church – with its Ionic pillars
And geometric shapes – was built
In the Classical style, looking more
Like a Greek temple than
A modern American church.
The greenish blue bronze statue
Of Civil War Gen. George Thomas
“The Rock of Chicamauga,” stood
Silent watch on his great war steed.
Angel – dressed in new jeans,
a clean plaid cotton shirt, and
Bright orange basketball shoes –
Called out to me: “Mister,
do you have a dollar?”

I fished out a dollar from my wallet
And gave her change from my pocket.
My young friend Matt said:
“I used to do volunteer work
At a homeless shelter. I never
Give money to the homeless –
Food yes, but never money.
They will only use it
To buy drugs and alcohol.
Besides we pay taxes.
It is the government’s responsibility
To take care of the poor, not us.”
Later Matt gave Angel a sandwich
As I surreptitiously watched.
As soon as Matt left,
Angel threw the sandwich under a bush.
The next day, when Angel asked me
For a dollar, I gave her fifty cents.
When she said “Is that all?”
I replied through clenched teeth:
“You should be grateful
For anything I give you.”
The next day, she was gone.
Summer turned to fall
And fall turned to winter.
I wore my new camel-haired overcoat
To protect me from the cold winds.
Angel stood on the steps of the church
In the same clothes she wore during the summer.
She was rail thin with her hair wild
And unkempt. Her clothes were
Now ragged and dirty.

She shivered as she peered at me
Through her one good eye
Her left eye socket red and empty.
She called out to me:
“Mister, do you have a dollar?”

Mark Kodama is a trial attorney and former newspaper reporter who lives in Washington, D.C. His short stories and poems have been published in anthologies, newspapers, journals, magazines and on-line blogs. Read other articles by Mark.