by Jim McGarrah

The only shade for several city blocks
spreads itself in intermittent shadows
beneath the old oak tree next to Kroger’s market.
A homeless man resides beneath the tree parallel to a parking lot
and propped on one elbow.
His body wrapped
in a filthy coat two or three sizes too large, he shelters
a dirty yellow dog that lies against the coat’s lapels.
Its chest rises and falls in a regular cadence
like a worn out and wobbly piston as the dog pants in the heat.
A radio, once called a boom box by ancestors of the Internet,
nestles in a folded sleeping bag
blasting Calypso music loud enough to make
flies twitch and dance in feral circles around them both.
The man’s unshaven face pleats in a constant smile.
Traffic shimmers slowly by
as if the whole world moved under water.
He raises his hand to wave at each lonely driver.
Sometimes one stops and shares a can or two from a bag of groceries.
Sometimes a driver pretends the man isn’t there.


Jim McGarrah is the author of 14 books. Running the Voodoo Down won the Elixir Press Poetry Prize. His new and selected poems A Balancing Act was published by Lamar University Press in 2018, and his most recent collection, You Can Never Go Back to The Turtle Back Inn, was released in the fall of 2022, followed shortly after by the mystery novel A Tattoo to Die For. His memoir of war titled A Temporary Sort of Peace won the national Eric Hoffer Legacy Nonfiction Award, and McGarrah has a new nonfiction book titled Misdemeanor Outlaw.

Down the Alley
Learning to See