What must it take to bum a cigarette
from a blind girl? I want to ask the man
who sidles up to her at the BART stop
where she stands apart, dog on leather
halter resting at her feet, like the faux
sculptures of street mimes, freezing
a pose, unblinking, silent buskers.
Wild-eyed, uncertain of step in his stained
aluminum goose-down vest, in his frayed
Bermudas, the man doesn't hesitate
to accost her. I watch them stealthily
now, not as I scrutinized her before,
staring brazenly into her filmy
eye as she lit up. How do they, without
danger? I got my answer: Bring the flame
close to your cupped palm to feel its heat
but not so close it will burn you. The man
breathes into her ear, near enough to taste
her cigarette. And as she pulls the pack
from within her jacket she must mollify
the dog whose seeing eyes have cased the man,
whose anxious nose sniffs at the socks
bunched at his ankles. The dog is sent down.
And the man retracts one smoke only.
But he doesn't turn to go: he makes her
light it. And with her free hand, she does.
Her other hand holds a tin cup I took
for a begging bowl. It was coffee. Starbucks.