To the Dying Man in Playa de Coco

While on vacation with my family and my sister’s family in Costa Rica, this experience happened. I said a prayer for this man, and that prayer slept through the night and today woke to me as a poem

We picked up a passerby as we left the beach
That was yesterday

I could not see him 
Thin man as he was but for his skeleton
And fuzzy head of hair that was barely there

The chemo in San Jose he said
Four hours away has been difficult for me
Too expensive by bus and now he gets no more treatments
It has been very difficult for me

Here, the grocery store is my stop
Death is coming for me soon maybe one month
Can you spare some money?

My husband spoke: Maybe you will live longer
If you don't drink
No alcohol no beer

The thin man turned to my husband where they sat in the front seat
I caught his profile 
Through the cries of my fussy baby
From where I sat in the back

His eyes bigger and clearer than ours  
His sudden gaze beyond the depth
Of any sea I have ever known
Please, sir, I haven't had a drink in 8 years

His words thundered a sober quiet in the car but
We gave him no money and
The lightning was this:
If you can spare none then please pray for me

He climbed out through the pain of his joints
Clinging to his life in the door jamb
As he found his legs under him on the pavement

We could see through the rearview mirror
His slow walking across the street
Long as his life and as slow as his death

Tenderness dressed as horror
Dawned in our hearts there in the passing sunshine of the coast
And the blue of the sky reflecting the water
Or maybe the other way around
Through the window

My heart
My husband's heart and the sudden calm and quiet of my fussy baby
Opened inside of the silence of a primordial prayer 
Of learning and loss
Of giving and not
Of sadness and pain
Of the truth of humanity when it visits you as a dying stranger

As the open palm of God
Inviting the gift of your sight
Of another

Published by jchmcpherson

Arts, Education and Writing

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