Tag Archives: Poverty

saturdays at 11:30 AM

I drive to a library on a rough block of my city

where I sit in a large, well-lit room with long, rectangular tables

and wait.

there are Saturdays where no one shows up

and I read or play with my phone or talk to my partner

if he’s around

most of the time we get a few kids who walk in with their mothers

requesting help with homework

which I am glad to oblige

since this is Homework Club, afterall

some of these kids are skinny, some are talkative, some want to be there, some don’t, some are quiet, some are overweight, some are serious, some are funny

some of their mothers drop them off and return later

some sit around and wait

some mothers talk to me

some bring me small gifts once in a while

One mom tells me she dropped out after eight grade

so she can’t help her son with his fifth grade math.

her son who is sitting across from us quietly reading an article about matter and its three states

another tells me she has been in America for a decade

and is embarrassed she hasn’t learned more English.

 

Only once I had a father drop off his two girls.

total jokesters who asked me a million questions every chance they could

in order to get out of doing their homework

one of the girls was named after a pop star.

Two hours later their Dad returned

while he waited for his daughters to pack away their notebooks and pencils

i studied him like he was one of the word problems his daughter just struggled with ten minutes prior

he was about my size

brown hair that roller coastered atop his head

in an endless succession of loops

yellow and black t-shirt

blue jeans

green eyes and thick tufts of hair

above his knuckles

just below where his fingers bent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Needs (a terribly sad poem)

one of our low income students
at school
a special needs boy
held a gun he’d constructed from blocks to my head yesterday
and slurred “gimme all your money”
part of me wanted to empty my pockets and tell him
he could have whatever he needed
if he thought it would help

at night
I dreamt he
was a man with intricate tattoos
and a mustache
jumping into a swimming pool without water

I tried to warn him, but the words wouldn’t come

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All You Got In This World

On my way north

I stop in to a town called Wilits, CA for a burger and a shake

okay 2 shakes

the girl at the cash register

looks at me like I’m wrong in the head

when I ask her ’bout the town’s story

so I change the subject

“I’m on my way to Fort Bragg to visit my cousin

he’s got a rickety boat,” I tell her

“We’re gonna take it out

on one o’ the lakes over there

Lake Cleone, it’s called

little sonofabitch

go fishin for bass and trout…

it really is a hunk o’ junk.”

I think I’m bein nice

I ain’t cussin at her or nothin’

well not much anyway

Just then

I see across the street an old timer

pushing a wheelchair with his wife in it

rigged up behind the lady’s chair is an attached dolly like thing containing 7 or 8 plastic bags of clothes and other worldly possessions

the man has one hand on the chair

with the other hand, he’s carrying

a big fuckin’ cross

I’m talkin’ two 3 by 7 slabs of wood

fastened to each other

and finished a dark brown, real perfect, you know?

For 20 minutes I watch these 2 walkin around under the ugly sun

The man takes one break in that time

the two of them sitting in the shade

not sayin nothin’ to each other

“Who are those folks?” I say to the lady

“How should I know?” she says, like I’m bothering her

“Lemme get 2 bottles of coke,” I say, and then charge across the street, my arms high in the air.

Two minutes later, I’m marching over there where they’re sittin in the shade

I hand the man a bottle, but I notice that the woman is sleeping now

“You folks thirsty?” I ask him.

“Thank you kindly son,” the man says

“Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?”

“Well, now I aint got time for a sermon, old timer. ”

“Do you go to church?”

“Not in a while. when I was a boy my mom would take me on Sunday.”

“But now?”

“Now I go fishing”

“you oughta go back son, He’s waiting for you”

“I been in the penitentiary two times now. I’m not sure he wants to see me”

“he wants to see everyone.”

Just then my cousin calls on my phone

he’s tellin me to speed my ass up

or else he’s leaving without me

“Well I gotta go folks.”

“Think about what I said,” says the man.

And suddenly, I can’t help myself.

“I’m gonna come clean with you. I don’t even believe in Him anymore.  I’s just being a nice guy. I figured you were thirsty and all.”

“God is with you, wherever you’re going boy,” he says. And then we’re starin’ at each other for a few seconds, neither of us sayin nothing.

Then I just “okay” him, smile and walk off, to cross the street.

I been around people like this my whole life.

Everybody thinkin their way is the way.

I’m a people person though

I talk to a lot o’ people

Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, even Buddhists

Anyone willing ta talk

I give them an ear

Some wanna show you the light

And then you gotta smile and nod a lot

and steer them clear of their belief

but it can be hard

especially when that’s all you got in this world.

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Balloon Animals

It can be frustrating

when you see a particular man walking around

like he’s always got a

sprained ankle

doesn’t he know

there are those

whose ends are tied off

by careful hands

so that they mustn’t

become anything other than what they are

if one is twisted into a fish, one cannot gallop

if one is made an elephant

one cannot fly

you are an elephant, they say

stomp your feet

have babies

look out for predators

and try to be happy.

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