This is an excerpt from Aluminum Times by John Olivares Espinoza.

Jail for Begging

My mother pushes a grocery cart,
While I tug at her blue and pleated skirt,
She takes her change and puts it into
My small hands of hope, for the old soul
Who’s slumped against the wall, his gray mouth
Covered by a beard of wind and dirt.
I pour the coins down his cupped hands
So he can eat some time that day, maybe
A taco at the stand across the street.
I look back to my mother, a bit shy
Before I look up to the rent-a-cop
Who says for me to take the money back.
I brush it off the curb into my palms
Like table crumbs, as the gray form frozen
Against the wall, silent as those pennies,
Is cuffed and taken off to jail. I ask
My mom why—we only tried to help?
The cop says bums make thirty bucks a week.
My mom pushes the grocery cart
Without a word, knowing she begged outside
Markets for change as Dad stole bread and ham
Inside. They were newlyweds at the time.