Charity Game Richard Fein Poetry

local_library Charity Game

by Richard Fein

Published in Issue No. 3 ~ April, 1996

Today my charity given on a seedy corner of fourteenth street
will save a stranger.
I slip a quarter into a video game slot
rather than press it into the palm of a beggar.
But he isn’t that special stranger I’m thinking of.
He is bedraggled, but there’s a certain wisdom in his eyes.
He still has his wits.
Surely he must know that we’re all charged
to give all we have to the neediest.
That’s a tenet of our professed religion.
So I have spared him the dilemma,
of keeping his coin or passing it on to the yet needier.
Heaven’s gate will swing on its hinge while he decides.
But there is one who would be even more distressed by charity.
In a righteous world all quarters should cascade,
like ants falling down an ant lion’s funnel,
into the hands of that most legendary of beings,
the neediest of the neediest.
It’s that poor soul I’m thinking of.
He who would witness the concavity of his world
flip into convexity–there he’d be
on the apex, on an Everest of quarters,
and having no one needier to give to except to the one just below him.
And for him to give unto that penultimate neediest–yea verily–
would put that soul in the same peril as his.
To put another’s soul at risk is also a sin.
Verily I have saved him from this dilemma.
Now surely he will pass through the needle’s eye,
while I play at shooting video blips
and miss.

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Richard Fein had this to say about his poem: "The checkout girl in the poem is real. She's someone I flirted with a long time ago. Part of the writing process is storing disparate images in your brain and combining them in interesting ways. This poem is a synthesis of various experiences. The Elvis and UFO articles are also real, but were not simultaneous with my meeting with the girl."