Friday, December 21, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This

Collective

roads have many beginnings
many unnoticed steps
stones we shuffle through an indistinct dark
towards a certain failure that lies between
the hopeful and slowly the inevitable.

here, at the End of the Road

America seems to tilt sharply down;
Her highways from the heartland
bleed out through wheat fields and corn stalks;
arteries of hard luck and broken choices

          that drain slowly their dust into the sea

and if you open your eyes,
you will see them

the ones who still have color on their clothes
the ones who don’t pull their madness around them like a Mac:

2 new arrivals

the contents of their former lives lying askew;
spilling from a contrivance of the familiar
still far less trash bag than backpack

one rocking slowly into his own grey
reality clearing long lines down his face
whispering a shout no louder than the passing cars

the other, frantically searching
the shallow pits they made in the rocks
to keep the December trades off them;

learning why the homeless never sleep at night

no no not her picture
not her picture

the wallet lies open on the concrete: money has no worth to the homeless

but home;
     that is worth your soul

no no no no no no

we’ll find it… we will. 
                      I promise we’ll find it

all those things you can't buy back
with a careless five dollar bill and change
panhandled from their curbside haunts

no

 please no

please

I know his choices were never mine, but they are certainly my sadness

passing by
at the precise moment when
       homeless
reaches straight through the heart
to pierce the dark

and eyes
dull as the freeway dust that covers them

finally see

but even this is not an ending;
this road doesn’t fall into the sea
          a meandering story to sorrows;
no: they continue on into endlessly the cold

a collective of the cast off:
a collective guilt
a collective responsibility,
a plausible deniability;
every grey-man-of words
who wants your vote
so they can total them up

and the road is all that's left to us;


II


streets that click-clack with countless pairs of feet marching to the bonanza and the crippled beat.

Though docilely titillated, the feet are too haughty with the slickness of socio-economic self-awareness to tap-dance, or throw down their things, and join the throng of Harikrishnas who thrum along at one with gods, sky and street.

I myself am not observing from no mount, cloud nor tower; nor am I leaving the museum nor library. No: I'm propelled homewards by carrier bags.

I'll not stoop to mention the tyrannical logos, but you can imagine the all-sorted shapes, sizes, textures and colours; square and oblong enigmas containing further enigmas, charms, beauty and power.

One homeless guy - tramp, bum, hobo - stands out, though he's asprawl on the pavement, in that he resembles Alan Ginsberg, the American poet.

I and all the other feet - wise to the city, and as cold as the sleet that's starting to fall - like one niggard divided into ten thousand pairs, do not condescend eye-contact, let alone spare change.

A conscience cannot be salved by contrasting a junkie, too hurt for action, with a 'third-world' child.

Homelessness is a concept alien to 'primitive' societies.

The sunlight dims and a spectrum of electric lights strike incantational on the neo-classical and 'postmodern' streets.

I arrive home and can't decide whether to put the kettle on or open wine.


III


Passed bitter apples spit and cussed,
here morning stings.
Dawn brings rest to clingy ghosts;
coffee roasts steep the breeze,
rich with omens
kick start the hearty,

My View Carre rising
My Wash Tub on Rampart
Under Cosmo Matassa's
Where Fats, Ray and Lil Richard
Keep the vibes clean with a back beat,
These lean times folks bleeding
Still needing fresh laundry,
The tawdry and maids waiting, hustlers and servants
Keep quarters and soap,
Wash, press and I fold

Assessing a pound, two fifity
I know them. They trust me.

But see please
An episode of squint and splendor
Ripe with fear and loathe of longing,
Kissed a tear bunching up on my lip
Flipped down,
Globe of laugh covered pity filling a comet
Smash a crater in the tender silk I imprint on

Yes Officer he was a friend I'd say
Murdered today? That park beyond the bridge
For what? For nothing he wouldn't give
He had an orange; half was yours.
He shared the bareness of his being,
Chose to loose his check on finer things,
Beyond a roof and piece of sand.

Urban outdoorsman he proclaimed
And knew his mail would come with mine,
In the winter time,
Spring he wandered north beneath the snow geese
Said the heat released his banshee
And the rot he got in 'Nam.

He was a kind man.
He called a niece back east on Christmas,
All he ever had, never named her.
She could claim him maybe.

He kept his fortune in his pocket;
Head busted with a rock,
For a sock chocked with change;
Drank and smoked exchanging disabilities,

Till he was free, was all he tried to be,
Real to me,

Cleansed from memory
Fast as he passed their high hats,
His plump aroma second lined,
He thought it fine and called it French.
They curse his stench and prayed for pity on our city.

He truly lived here. Teaching without preaching,
Through the screams still dared to dream here
Quoted Clemons, Looked like Whitman,
A Navy Cross, blue book mark ribbon

Glib before the hitman I'm sure

His simple censure feeds the mean
Between the gentle and obscene;
High righteous heads shake at the scene,
Claiming the street more serene
Each bloody litter taken back
And black taking a black,
Katrina gleaned Angola youth
Strangled blue.

I lack the gifts to tell you
Truth balloon puppy bent.
He was a friend who lived a tom cat's deal
But lived for real.

and of roads there may be many
and all of them we can't not travel
choosing one 200 years ago
brought the European to the Ohio valley

the buckeye forest almost hid the
pounding river.....

but when i walked there
40 summers ago
only strip-mined
mountain sides collapsed in to coal stained valleys

these roads that brought us into
a third millennium encircle the planet
becoming electrons
or into space as rockets or planes
humanity cast the future

each one a person
the old Hopi informs

embrace the spirit
forsake the road

but sometimes it seems
the road is all that's left to us.....


IV


but America is not the world
nor the only road.

How can I walk a mile
in the shoes he does not have?
Already I felt out of place
ivory towered
fed and showered
posh hotel in the city
on a work trip.
Almost dark in the park
seeking the breath of trees
against the smog
I saw the jolly swagman camping
not beside the Billabong
but Parramatta Road.
He did not return my greeting
but settled underneath a bench
underneath a street light
underneath the tattered remains of his dignity
pulling close about him
a polite invisibility
resting his head
on the stones of forgetfulness.

But I saw
and I remember:


V


I watched them come from the coasts,
floating in like some leaving of forsaken cargo, 
as flotsam, the jettisoned of humanity, 
marked for a drop off to nowhere-in-particular

they carried with them history in the making,
asking little but for safe haven from tornadoes
and snow as they spanned a continent, coast-to-coast,
this nation supposedly indivisible,

but always divided by rank and class

this one which calls all other "pots" black
melting together faces from all points on the globe,
confined to a track of migration, spinning in a milky
way, never transparent and just as opaque 

They drag in the pitch, the black and heated of asphalt,
finding comfort in the meeting places unspoken,
unmarked but intimated by tradition
of those who came and went before 

This is their road wound through the middle like a belt,
(holding two halves of a country and coasts
neatly pulled together,)?, a familiar old footpath
worn through (center?)(heartland?), and solid (as hardwood ?)
from the east coast heat to the west coast lull
and sweet pacifist breezes, he and she prefer
to carry knapsack and backpack while bearing 
little conformity to dreams spun in America's sleepfulness 

they walk among the awake and aware,
that life is rarely ever fair, and fairy tales
are for children and for dreamers 
with one eye on the sky and the other on the road 
with thumbs up and signs out, I watched them 
sign out of the standard issue, make a pact with 
the road less traveled, form a community of
compassionate companions and pray for a kind sun: 

 VI


A new day had begun,
she found herself
among the collective.

Watched, and watching him
from her booth, the only place
she lived these days...

Beneath pools of black coffee
between cracks of maroon
pleather upholstery,

She spied him surreptitiously
with her little eye - those childhood
games played on continual loop,

ooops... did he catch her glance?

Now smiling into her compact,
the blush of her mirror reflecting
hope as often reapplied as her lipstick
in shades of Apple Pie in the Sky Red.
A Maybelline bestseller

America, America....
God paint his face on me.
Me was the new black.
It's the century of the Me, yet
Everyone thought they
were so down with empathy.

E to the M to pathy.
was that spoonful of sugar
helping bitter truth go down as we
Fed on the holy host, its communion
formed by states of a union
where the dissolute and the destitute
sat side by side - Some eating their fill
of themselves, and others rummaging
through garbage bins hungry
for any scraps of attention


VII


as he sits in front of the Safeway
with no shoes and a broken soul

muttering to himself quietly
staring obsessively at grains and gravel
in the breaks in the cement.

The thermometer dips below zero
but there is no place to go;
the shelters are boarded and planked
not a penny in their coffers;

a blanket would be a kindness
but there's no blanket to spare.

He mutters to himself delusions
hopeless yet hopeful
waiting for a savior.

She sits wasted
bloated arm and dirty needle
barely breathing
glazed eyes and vacant stare.

What is left of hope?

Bitter memories with no prospects.

She mutters to herself quietly
as she fills a syringe
hoping that this time
this time it will work,
this time a solution will come
as she shoots up with
other blood sacrifice
for the fleeting forgetfulness:


VIII


and so it is with a preferential blindness we all turn
consumed instead with the hustle and bustle of acquiring
Gifts, we tell ourselves, gluttonous eyes covered
with the blinders of green, silver and gold

cold with hypnotic blinking,
a crumpling and tinkling ringing in our ears
bills and coins deny the beat of empathy,
defy our sensibilities and swallowed down
with guilt - a gulp of tears at injustice and inequity

Where sailed the mercies found in winter?
Did they flee on a sled with a jolly old myth?
Did they run in the rain or the flurry of snow
when storming the gates, doors mauled
with competition, acquisitions to keep up with

the Joneses

We display the jovial in lights with frivolous abandon
obstructing the view of the first Passion 
when Love asked nothing for the giving 
and the reason for this season lays like that crucifix
empty but trumped by an insistence to obscure the ugly and the real 

So where fled the mission of justice?
That cry from the manger, the cross 
or the lady standing in a harbor  
all hoarse with the years of neglect and ignorance

We hoarded our impotence in pursuit of the shining
emerging from the catacombs of commercial- search for treasure
but failed to carry one small shovel loaded with the golden rule,
or fire for the censors of frankincensal prayers
or apply the myrrh of soothing, salve for the wounds of the outcast


IX


I turned off the engine of the machine,
turned over the keys of wanton collection
and in the stillness of no rush and sweet hush
learned the sanctity of the true language of love
which flows from the mouth of God's broken heart

Compassionate deeds are the proofs that confess
not the decking of halls with holly and guests,
to convey in a mission of mercy and cheer
that hope's 'round the corner in the turn of a year
and that peace for our fellows is a tangible gift
and that good will to all is as simple as this
a present to others that Christmas had missed: 


X


a collective of the cast off:
a collective guilt
a collective responsibility,
a plausible deniability;
every grey-man-of words
who wants your vote
so they can total them up
to more of the same inane blindness,
a deliberate unseeing of loss
not giving a toss, no coin,
just a kick in the balls
and a night sleeping rough.

england, a weeping sore
scratched by thoughts of empire
and being the ones who once won the war,
a wistful longing
for a land that never was,

"the past is a foreign country
they do things differently there"

england a weeping sore
kids in care "groomed and raped"
state sponsored bankers
get a hundred grand knocked off a ten mill pension
and cry foul,
howl at them, at all the opium-of-the-people TV
x-factoring us in to blindness
it's a kindness really,
not to see the paucity of our lives

divide and rule
divide and rule,

and so at last, drowning in our silence
we take one last gasp of humanity
and grasp again for the road,
take to the road, and walk it with me
take to the road

the road is all that's left to us.....


a long grey-dust road that’s left to us,

                                             each and all


the Writers of Alabaster & Mercury
All Rights Reserved, 2012

Frater Rodderz
Peter Doyle
Marty Smith
Lori Gomez
Deborah Trimble
Debra Webb Roberts
Yes, this is unusually long compared with my other posts here, but I found it rivetting from start to finish. And of course could not have written it, as it is the work of a collective, and focuses on homelessness as observed in different places — but I would love to be capable of every section. Even though the poem is long and the subject matter confronting, the lead-up to Christmas seems the perfect time for us all to be reminded.

I republish this with permission.  One of the contributors, Peter Doyle, who has been featured here before, posted it in his facebook notes. That led me to Larry Kuechlin, who is listed as the Publisher of Alabaster and Mercury. And what is Alabaster and Mercury? 
(Great name, don't you agree?) The information supplied to me says:
Alabaster & Mercury was established by Larry Kuechlin in 2007 as a private and hidden group that would allow writers to confidently workshop their poetry in a positive, constructive atmosphere. The group features authors published by major publishing houses and published poets from all around the world, but is structured for both the accomplished writer and the absolute beginner, one of which is just 12 years old.
Alabaster & Mercury is also a publishing house in its own right, with 10 titles published to date. 

Although the workshop group is hidden, the publishing house is more public, so check out the website. As well as individual titles in the book store, there is advance news of a new anthology:





Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

8 comments:

  1. WOW!!!!!! Rosemary! Riveting is the word and the timing is perfect, homelessness is all the sadder and more desperate at Christmas. So interesting, a poem written collectively. Cool idea. "Learning why the homeless never sleep at night." Fantastic post! Thanks so much.

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    1. Yes, I am so glad I was able to get permission to use it now — I only had a couple of days after first encountering this poem. Larry was extremely gracious about it.

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  2. Homelessness grows here like a weed. And for all of you who say "Get a job" let me tell you a story about a man who had a job and a son and a wife with cancer. The man and the son lost everything. Jobs aren't always the answer. Our healthcare system $!*#^$$$$ For those of you who think only crazy people (or self-medicated addicts) are homeless, let me say only about 50% have that diagnosis - the rest are a you and a me. Well, that's my soapbox. Sorry to spill my spleen.

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    1. Glad to have helped ignited your passion, Libby.

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  3. Hi Rosemary - thanks for sharing this collective work - It is multi-layered and I think it absolutely needs another and more careful read - I enjoyed the different voices which gave choral effect to the refrain of homelessness and 'the road.' I need to think about this a bit more - Very thought provoking.

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    1. Yes, I agree it needs re-reading and pondering.

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  4. riveting, yes, and certainly requiring a second read. section III got to me, that's not what a vet deserves, after what he has given for his country. in the local news over here recently, a guy loses $400,000 at the casino over the turn of a card, and says it's ok. imagine what $400k can do. the rich/poor divide is getting wider.

    thanks for sharing this work.

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  5. Yes, Rosemary I will read this again! Amazing insight and details to make one's mind drift off in their own world!

    Thank you @>------------

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