Traveler’s Tea

 

Out in the sudden, strong slanting rain
I saw the traveler from the shelter of my porch.
“Here, come here,” I called before I considered
What my erstwhile invitation might mean.

Wariness and weariness filled his dark eyes
As he looked, then turned aside to join me.
He set his sodden pack and bedroll down
But did not remove his tattered coat, or hat.

He nodded a thank you but held his words.
I offered the other chair, but he declined,
Instead choosing to slowly lower himself
To become a wet heap upon the floor.

We watched waves of water cross the lawn,
We breathed the saturated freshness in the air.
I noticed him finally lean against the wall,
And barely heard the escape of a ragged sigh.

Just like that, he’d changed without changing –
Here was a real person, deserving compassion.
From an unknown, homeless statistic, a beggar on the street,
From a stranger on the road, to this man on my porch.

His world had not really changed so much:
Still wet and worn, without a place to be.
But now I felt more compassionately
As he became my Samaritan’s responsibility.

But I knew he was hesitant, perhaps burned before,
Like a stray kitten petted, then kicked from the door.
I excused myself to grab him a towel,
Then went to the kitchen to prepare us some tea.

I thought, he might be an angel, visiting in disguise,
Or perhaps even Jesus, here as the least of these,
So I set out the good china, on our silver service tray,
With chicken salad sandwiches, and some scones I’d saved.

He’d shed his coat and dried his gray, wiry hair.
And with cautious curiosity, watched me place the tray,
Set the table with linens, and pull up two chairs.
Then upon my invitation, sat down with me to tea.

Against the cacophony of raindrops we spoke of life,
Warmed our chests with drink, and ate relentlessly.
He was a laborer, who’d drifted with dreams and jobs,
Leaving behind family, and hope, and symbols of identity.

We talked about providence and evil and grace,
Though the words we used were of folks, kind and cruel,
Life’s chance opportunities, and the harshness of the road.
And I realized I did know him, and not just by name.

As the tea was finished, restlessness seized his hands,
And as if by his stares, the rain cowered and ceased.
He rose and reached for his garments and pack
While I took some bills from my wallet to share.

He extended his hand and looked me right in the eyes,
And this time spoke clearly, “God bless you, my friend.”
God had done so already, I knew this of course,
By sending this traveler to the shelter of my porch.

 

11 june 2014, s p taylor

 

 

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