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A Summer Day MAG
A flutter of young voices,
Treading firmly and gaily.
The old man by the road ...
We pass by ... turn a blind eye
To his feeble entreaties ...
One of many, I thought ...
Thatlined the streets
And filled the gutters.
I don't know why Iturned back.
When our eyes met,
I saw that he was mycountryman.
More embarrassing for me,
The one giving him thosefive dollars,
Than for him receiving it ...
I tried to avoid hisgaze ...
"Ning bao zhong," I tried to say
Using therespectful words
We are taught to use for our elders.
My throatwent dry ...
Did such a meek whisper issue from my lips?
I wasaghast when he bowed in gratitude.
Struck dumb ... I could onlythink,
He was an old man. I should have been the one
who boweddown to him.
He could have been someone's father ...
Someone'sgrandfather ... someone's brother
And here he was stranded in astrange land
with no money to bring him to his family ...
bowingin gratitude to a 14-year-old girl,
who should have bowed tohim.
Now my tears came, and the deluge began.
That old man,my countryman
Who should have been in a warm home,
surrounded byhis family and friends,
Was instead begging in the streets.
Iwished I could have done more ...
If only I had given him more thanfive measly dollars
My friends complimented me on my generosity
And my heart was bitter against them.
It was not generosity thatdrove me to it.
He was an old man, my countryman.
They told methat he would have
Spent it on alcohol or something
And my heartflamed with indignation.
They did not understand ...
He was anold man, my countryman.
We in our sheltered homes ...
Toolucky and too ignorant.
I wonder if his relatives knew
what hadhappened to him.
He was my countryman.
And I could not do morefor him.
My tears ran dry ... and the gnawing left.
But I willnever forget
That old man, my countryman.