Sleeping on a Sewer Manhole


Wandering the streets of Philadelphia one rainy night, I asked a couple exiting their historic brick home where I could find a good place to eat.  They recommended a few restaurants, warning me which were BYOB.  Being both naive and a non-drinker, I hesitated, “Um . . . BYOB?” “Bring your own beer,” they chuckled.  I found City Tavern where the Founding Fathers debated the principles of liberty while smoking and sipping madeira, and ordered Martha Washington’s chicken pot pie.  My tummy warm and full (and my wallet drained), I set off through the cold drizzle to my hotel.  Steam snaked eerily up from the holes in the sewer manhole lids.  The wet air was growing more frigid.  I stepped round a cobbled corner into a narrow alley and came upon a man lying in a fetal ball on a sewer manhole lid, soaking up what little heat he could from the sewer vapors, sheltered from the rain by wilted cardboard.  This short poem remembers him.


A cold rain in April.
Glistening cobblestones.
Steam rising from the sewer through a cratered manhole lid.
A brother curled up, rolling restlessly, capturing wet warmth under his blankets
under an evening rain.

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