She touches me, splintering the armor
That keeps me strong.
The little ones follow me, standing by my side
As if we are friends.
He stands there, painfully staring at me
As I stare into detached space.
They say, don’t give money,
It will circle into criminal pockets.
They say, don’t give food,
Creating dependence is ineffective.
They say, look away,
Act indifferent to detach yourself.
This dogma is preached from the community,
Built into a towering effigy of casual words;
Harsh stature, made of unmoving stone.
They say, maph korun -- forgive me.
Forgive me, brother, as you sit on a scooter, legless,
Rolling between cars with a sandal laced through your fingers.
Forgive me, nana, in your beaten leather skin,
With a wrist that cannot rotate towards prayer or alms.
Forgive me, dada, with your white beard and taqiyah,
Grasping your bamboo walking stick, and your breath in hope.
Forgive me, sister, breast revealed in a holey sari,
With your exposed child listening to your heart beat faster.
Forgive me, my children, as you call me ‘a beautiful madam,’
And shake your heads, placing your fingers to your mouth,
Masterfully in unison, as a row of puppets.
Forgive me, for I know not if this is right
-- it is what I’m told.