from The Case for Mendicants

Before Thanksgiving one year
Junior said, let’s invite a beggar to eat with us.
We don’t know any beggars, said Mother,
a mendicant is no longer an honorable profession.
Father said, We don’t know any poor people at all,
do we dear? How about a stranger?
They called Leon,
friend of monastics, beggars, and mountebanks.

I’ll send someone, said Leon.
The night of Thanksgiving
all around the table they went
each expressing thanks
and a wish, if only one were given.

Health, someone said right off,
money – honest from a kid,
a nice son-in-law, a good school for the children,
a brand new carpenter’s bench with new tools.
Then the poor man’s turn:

I wish I were a powerful king
of a large important country.
One night, they would invade my country
conquer my palace with no resistance from my guards.

I would be awakened from a deep sleep
with no time to dress.
I would escape in my nightshirt.
Fleeing over hills, through a valley,

I would arrive right here, to this house,
and I would be sitting here with this family,
right now. This is my wish.

That’s nice, Father said,
but what good would that do you? Really.

I’d have a night shirt, the poor man said.