At the bus stop, a blind man sells colored pencils.
Ballpoint pens, too, at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Ten cents for a pencil, two bits for a pen.
Around the corner, a boy from the orphanage
gives a bookmark to anyone who drops money into his box—
no matter if it’s a nickel or a dollar.
A different boy every day, rotating by the month.
There are that many boys at the orphanage, I am told,
and I am grateful not to be one and fearful that I could be—
these boys in their coarse blue suits and thick-soled black
faces alternately fierce and frightened
and in their eyes the sad lights of distant ports
faintly flickering as they repeat the same refrain:
Alms for Saint Gregory,
the name of their orphanage,
the patron saint of shipwrecked sailors,
of lost travelers.