The Sidewalk Cleaner

He used to work the downtown core.

Scraping dried chewing gum
from the pavement
with one of those tools
they use to strip old
wallpaper.

He would take great care
to get it all,
down on hand and knee
face to the
pavement.

Then he would throw each offering
into a large white pail
with a black lid
and move
on.

The briefcases, heels,
and pant suits
rushed by on their way
to bigger things:

expense accounts, workplace romances,
plush offices with names etched
in the door…

Such things did not seem to concern
this one.

He didn’t even work
for the city;
this saint
of sanitation,
this mumbling stumbling Christ-child
of a man.

It was just something he did
on his own time.

Scraping, collecting,
cleaning the sidewalks
of dried chewing
gum
for free.

Slipping a few
of the tiny pink ones
into his mouth
every so
often,
when he thought
no one was
looking.

 

Evergreen Review.  New York City, NY.  Number 132 (Summer 2013).

© Ryan Quinn Flanagan