Web of Glass by Bonnie Carasso

A young homeless man in a red ragged tee scuffs along,

shambles table-to-table in flip-flops, scrounging not a dime,

nothing beyond an irritated grunt, and I’m reading Keats.


His brown smile, two broken teeth up front, tell

stories in a tongue I have long forgotten. It’s his smile

that stays with me after he enters the coffeeshop,


where all the mugs of frappe, drizzle, and whipped cream

cannot soften his hard life. Those broken teeth must ache

when the free ice water hits them. They throb in my mind,


while I reassess my responsibilities to the social contract—

do not reward the indolent—written in the air like molten glass,

liquid, pliant, until you pass a folded dollar to an abject soul


and learn, from the lacerating glances of others on the patio,

free will hardens in the open air, into a web of glass so fine

and invisible, pinpricks and micro slices of regret, over not


opening my hand, heal into scars of reluctance to read poetry

in public with anything like an open heart and mind.