One True Life
Walking to the neighborhood store,
my small, beautiful dog
straining at his red leash, and I
in my big winter jacket
against an April freeze and this
light battering of rain —

a young man approaches us, can
of beer and a Lotto
ticket in his hand. He coos
at the dog: “Little Lassie,”
he says.

I don’t know
this boy, he’s strange
to the neighborhood. He is
somewhere near twenty,
his clothes are bad, savaged
from his sleep
and incessant use.

I notice his eyes, seasonless
clouds beneath the innocence
of his unwashed hair.
           Got any
extra change? he finally asks,
his voice without the
questioning rise, but tight
and flat as if pressed
through a hand guarding his face.

I reach in my wallet and give the boy
everything, the way
I would give to my son:

homeless once, without
work or esteem, lonely in that
East Bay shelter for the
one true life that could fit
with him; and how he told no one
until he came to me,
and I took him in.