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Syndic Literary Journal

Sheliach Mitzvah

By Stanley H. Barkan

In Jerusalem, he gave me a dollar
to give to a needy man somewhere in New York,
a blessed message that, I’m told, would protect me:
“The messenger of a good deed comes to no harm.”
So I carried it like a live coal in my pocket,
wondering how I would get through airline security.
I fingered it like a worry bead, like a Hindu crystal,
all the long journey from Tel Aviv to New York.
It glowed hot and fiery all the car trip
back to my home in Merrick, Long Island,
And all night long it threatened to burst into flames.
The next morning, I drove into Manhattan,
sought out a truly worthy-looking homeless man,
took out the dollar, stuck it in is hand, glad to be rid of it,
like the flask in the Stevenson tale of “The Bottle Imp.”
As I turned away, I heard a crack, a sound of thunder.
I turned back and there was fire—flames burst
out of the hand of the homeless man!
All the homeless men were burning like the beggars
and cripples and poor in the legend of Vlad Țepeș.
All New York was ablaze. The world, too, was ending in fire,
while I was frozen, turned to a pillar of ice.


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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