No Samaritan

synanpses 2
By Sean Gunning

I went down Wardlow to Woodruff yesterday
and saw a man lying on his side on the sidewalk,
his torso in a bird of paradise landscaped verge
between Ralphs parking lot and the sidewalk,
and the man and the landscape almost blended
into suburban invisibility.

“There was a man who went down
from Jerusalem to Jericho, and bandits
attacked him and robbed him and beat him
and left him with little life remaining in him,
and they went away.”

At his side, I passed through the pungent death-cloud:
not a physical or spiritual death,
but a death of determination to keep striving.
Beaten down.
Born into desolation.
And I recognized the smell of the grace of God.

“And it chanced a priest was going down that road
and he saw him and passed on.”

I prayed to our father, the father of us both,
I’m no better man than he, just more blessed.
Fortunate to be married, to have a home,
to have the worries and the unfulfilled dreams that I do.
I’m no better man than he, just more blessed.
And I knew it was not enough.
And I passed on…
not wanting to be late for an appointment.

“And likewise a Levite came and arrived at that place
and saw him and passed on.”

And I prayed to our mother, the mother of us both.
And I reclined in the contoured dentist’s chair
thinking it poetic that he resembled Doctor Roe,
with his black hair and black beard
and grey and black clothes,
and I resolved to look more closely
if he was still there on my way back.

“But a Samaritan as he journeyed came where he was
and when he saw him he had compassion on him.
And he came to him and bound up his wounds
and poured on them wine and oil,
and he brought him to the inn and took care of him.
And in the morning, he took out two pennies
and gave them to the innkeeper
and said to him, take care of him,
and whatever you spend more,
when I return I will give it to you.”

And he was still there.
Now lying north-south, with his arms straight at his sides
and his feet crossed over thick grey socks
with a gaping hole at the ankle.
And his face was ashen-brown or olive-colored
or a shade of white or black.
And his beard was scraggly and tangled
and sorely lacking the dark, designer dashes of Doctor Roe’s.
And he was lying on Woodruff Boulevard at 1:30 in the afternoon,
with closed eyes inside a grimy-grey hoodie-shroud
listening to the faint sound from the other side of the street
of the L.A. River carrying discarded debris back to sea,
and the faint footsteps of the people passing by.
And I passed by, and prayed for him a second time,
knowing it was not enough.
Knowing I was no Samaritan.

First published in Verdad.

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