Joshua Michael Stewart


Every Sunday I give an old man a ride
to Mass. I won’t step inside the church,
but I help him out of the minivan,
hand him his walker. Sometimes I drive

him to the dentist to get his four teeth cleaned.
Born with his umbilical cord wrapped
around his neck, he lost oxygen to his brain,
and for a bit too long. He never learned

how to read. His words swim through honey.
His parents sent him to a state institution
where he remained for forty-five years.
He doesn’t like to take showers

because showers consisted of a drain
in a basement floor and a hose.
It’s hard to get him to change his clothes
because he’d be given a set of hand-me-downs

at the beginning of each week, and that’s all
he’d have to wear until the following Sunday.
Still, to this day, when he uses the restroom
he sits on the cold porcelain. At the facility,

there weren’t toilet seats, no toilet paper.
Despite all this, despite all his inability
to comprehend, what he lacks the most
is a working knowledge of how to be unkind.

Where I would’ve turned vindictive, he smiles,
sees goodness in everyone, says nothing bad
about anything. Every Sunday I wait
behind the wheel, read whatever I’m reading.

I always know when services are almost over
when the one-armed woman leaves the cathedral,
always a little early, before anyone else,
always before the bells start to ring.