Into the car from the next car
through the opening and shutting door
that when it opens lets in
a giant dose of subway noise,
and when it shuts the normal level
of clatter returns—through the door
came two elderly shabby men.
They stood there a moment, and then one said,
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are gospel singers.
There used to be three of us. One member
of our group has passed away,
but we are carrying on as best we can.
We would like to sing for you,
and we hope that you will show some love."
By which he meant, not just love,
but putting some money
in the tall Styrofoam cup
He held in his hand. And with that,
they began to sing, a swinging
upbeat number—not a song
I was familiar with, but it was about Jesus,
and as he sang he counted time
with the hand not holding the cup, fingers
slightly curved, pointing out ahead of him.
The other singer stood off to the side
and a little behind him, and kept his eyes
downturned, while he sang
a beautiful bass gospel harmony.
Everyone else seemed to be ignoring them,
but as they sang I took out my wallet, and got up
and put a ten dollar bill in the cup.
The singer looked down to see what he’d got,
and nodded to me, a courtly nod,
his head slightly turned to the side.
I thought it wasn't a bad donation.
I wanted to show my appreciation.
I was hoping for a longer concert.
I could have listened to them
all the way to The Battery.
But as the train slowed, they walked down
to the other end of the car, still singing,
and when the verse had ended
the doors opened, and they walked on through.
I should have given them a twenty.
Angelic subway choir.
Two shabby men, never to be seen again.