Homeless, he slouches at a wooden table
in the reference room, Columbus
Dispatch open in front of him, an excuse
for being there. Fluorescent light glares
over newsprint he mostly ignores.
It is almost closing time. He replaces
the paper, drags himself toward the door.
Last orchestral notes echo
from the audio-visual room. A blast
of finale, frenzy of sounds reminds him
of teaching music before layoff,
poverty, and no housing forced him
to the streets. Leaving, he trudges
past a showcase displaying Shawnee
artifacts, a bit of history about which
he is indifferent.

Bronze doors lock behind him, tight as
a secret. Night surrounds like
an inescapable hand. July evenings
make it easy for him to sleep
outside wherever he can. Plodding
down Grant Avenue, he passes wishless
faces, familiar comrades struggling
to stay alive.

As a child, his parents turned him away,
tortured him with abandonment
and foster care. Now, he blesses beauty
of skies, lives within safety of sadness,
is burned raw from the stars.

R. Nikolas Macioci is the author of fifteen books. Cafes of Childhood was submitted for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. In 2021, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net award. In 2022, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. More than two hundred of his poems have been published here and abroad