Pilgrim

At the broad end of a beam of sunlight
that warms the knotted hair
trailing onto his back,
a man dragging blankets behind him like robes
walks along the street
wearing nothing to place him in our century,
rather the Middle Ages
when ragged pilgrims crossed whole countries
to reach the shrine
where their souls would be cleansed
after their bodies had no further use for them.

He moves in a slow manner we could mistake
for grace, hardly raising his feet
as he progresses, and holding his head
high enough to display the clear profile
with brow sloping down to the nose
and the chin pushed forward
where it disappears into his beard.

He doesn’t stop to ask for anything,
doesn’t lie down on a bench in the park
where mothers like to sit
with young children, doesn’t act as if he’s scoping
out the situation for a break-in later,
but the neighbourhood isn’t zoned for him
and we who watch have nothing prepared
to give; even if he stopped and turned

to face us, opening up the shadows
to reveal a medieval heart on fire,
we’d return to our own time
in which we feel secure, kept apart as we are,
from the poor and poorer still.

David Chorlton was born in Austria, grew up in Manchester, England, and went to live for several years in Vienna, before moving to Phoenix in 1978. Arizona’s landscapes and wildlife have become increasingly important to him and a significant part of his poetry. His most recent collection is The Devil’s Sonata from FutureCycle Press. The shadow side of Vienna provides the core of The Taste of Fog, a work of fiction published by Rain Mountain Press.

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