Coffee Cafe Customers: The Good Shepherd

My eye catches them sitting at a corner table.
A young man is wearing a lime green helmet
And a red t-shirt.
His pale face is pinched
And his chin slips away
Resting on his chest
As he slumbers.
Does the helmet protect his brain
From excessive banging during seizures?
Does it bolster the weak bones of his cranium?

His caretaker sits across from him,
A distinguished African American
With white hair and trim beard
A thick gold wedding band on his large left hand.
He flips the pages of his magazine
Quietly reading
Patiently guarding
While his charge sleeps.

They look like an unlikely pair
A combination of robust and afflicted
Healthy and sick
Black and White.
Yet they fit together like two worn hymnals
In a pew rack.

The helmet man awakes.
His caretaker talks to him.
The sound of murmuring voices
From customers conversing
Surrounds them.
Time slips away.

What a way to spend a late Wednesday afternoon
Out of the house
Out on the town
Enjoying quiet companionship
The Good Shepherd and his sheep.

—Carla Martin

Carla Martin

I was born in New York City and grew up in St. Andrews, Scotland and Pasadena, California. I have lived in Bakersfield for thirty years now, having raised my two sons here. I have taught piano, art and English. In these “Golden Years” of life, I am a substitute teacher and aspiring poet and children’s book author.

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