three steps away

December 22nd, Montreal

I.

Our arms linked, parent and child
we walk straight, then zig-zag
amidst a frenzy of shoppers
our breath white, floating
shoulders scrunched
hands tucked in pockets
sheathed in comfortable gloves.
Red and white window signs
tempt, taunt
Holiday Sales !
40 % off all merchandise
offering more and more
perfect gifts
fulfillment promised
in the tangible.

II.

Every one to two blocks,
they sit on broken cardboard boxes
dirty blankets or sleeping bags
begging silently with paper cups, a black cap
disheveled sentinels of another reality.
A few coins are visible,
here or there a paper dollar
as most of us rush by, eyes level
unwilling to look down
to see
life on the fray.
Their presence
as accepted as pigeons
in a city landscape.

III.

Only three steps away
he sits cross-legged, head bowed
and covered with a grey hood,
his hands tucked up sleeves
hiding from frost bite.
His shoulders are neither slumped
or firm, as if still deciding
on a life position.
There is a box on the sidewalk-
small, wooden, open
with the word love
written inside the cover
and I remember

he is someone’s son,

was a boy who ran
elbows arcing with speed
lifting his face to the sky
at least once

fell in love
at least once

fell down
at least once

and now sits
head bowed
to remind us.