The Beggar

Joshua Barnes

Beneath the dirt of the subway
Caked under her long nails and
Ground into her ruddy cheeks and knees,
She mouths the scrambled words of a poem,

Something about birds and coins,
Expelled as a blast of sour summer humidity
Collapsing into a breathless winter wind,
Fallen autumn leaves rattling in her chest.

The words belong to her,
Clutched as a dollar or a tin can,
Tradeable,
Though no one’s bargaining.

Behind the stench of piss and festering wounds,
She scratches the punctures
Through which God entered and Heaven escaped
One long night ago.

She sits with a cup, no sign,
Scabbed fingers fidgeting with hospital bracelets,
Mouthing words inaudible and out of order,
Silenced by the city ignoring her with a wide berth.


Joshua Barnes was born and raised in Boyne City, Michigan, and is now a Philadelphia transplant with a career as a Nurse Manager. His short fiction has been previously published in Kairos Literary Magazine. He’s been a devoted comic book nerd since he was ten. When not writing or working, he can be found reading poetry and horror fiction, perfecting his handstands, or binge-watching Drag Race.

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