Waiting for a cross light in Manhattan,
I grabbed the drunken man in mid fall,
holding him up with all my strength,
his huge frame threatening to
bring us both down in crashing ruin.

For a moment I held him steady,
propping him against a traffic pole
to deal as best he could in his
battle with gravity.

Reprimand came swiftly from
startled companions who spoke of
my mortal danger in trying to rescue
just another lost soul on the street.

He could have knifed me, they said,
or strangled me in delirious struggle.

I did not think, I told them—
it was just a reaction.
They made me promise
never to do that again.

In the years since, I have
walked around, stepped over,
and ignored hundreds of fallen men
without a passing thought until today.

I am not the same person I was
and doubtless could not
hold such a man up if I tried.
And I’m much slower to react,
especially when I know
I shouldn’t.

And what did it matter that I
stopped to prop up a man doomed to
fall the moment I left him?

I wear no halo for my impulse
nor entertain the slightest
doubt I was in any real danger.

except maybe from having to hear
the thud of a dead weight as his
face hit the ground.

The danger may not be mortal
but it can kill you just the same.

Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet and the author of seven books, including two short story collections and two juvenile fantasy novels. His latest poetry collection is “The Museum of Unwearable Shoe,” published by Kelsay Books.