In a city where I once lived, for many years
an old man sat on his doorstep, in his hand
a brown facecloth, which he turned
over and over, smoothed out
against his knee, crumpled up, smoothed again,
then held at arm’s length. Sometimes he buried
his whole face in it, and since he was dressed in tweeds
I could never decide
if he was Idiot or on his way to being wise,
or on his way back, the cloth
his rhodora. I never
asked; he never looked up
from his studies or madness, whichever
let him sit there every sunny day
thinking or not thinking. I never heard
anyone call him in; I never passed
his doorstep as he came out into the morning
or saw him sip from a glass, or even stand.