Those of you who visit often know I don’t usually post poems here, but I thought I’d make an exception this time. This is my latest poem, “Downhill Push,” offered up for your reading pleasure. Hope you enjoy!
He has fourteen warrants for his arrest,
But the cops won’t touch him.
Hepatitis, they say,
And all those open sores.
And I’ve got kids at home, you know?
Why risk that just to book some homeless guy
He’ll be out again before the ink is dry.
Which you understand,
In a way.
But all the understanding in the world
Does no good at the stop light you realize now
You should have tried to beat,
Because it’s too late to roll up the window
Without feeling like a heel.
You went to college.
You went to church,
As a kid.
And you’re thinking of going back,
With your own kids.
The poor will be with you always
And all that jazz.
You know the drill, the camel,
The eye of the needle.
The rich man.
God loves charity.
But right now charity smells like piss and bad funk
With a dirty palm stuck through your open window
And a pin prick star cluster against a night sky bruise patch inside his elbow
From the heroin.
You realize it’s a nice metaphor—
Camels and needles and rich men—
Just not here, in the real world.
It wasn’t like this, sixteen years ago,
When you were hired.
A cash stipend for covered parking down the block
Isn’t much when you have to thread this needle
Of bearded bums and winos
Pissing on the sidewalk
Just to get to work.
Downtown looks like the apocalypse.
The homeless the living dead.
And that one over there, up in the grass by the bushes,
Past the two pretty secretaries
In knee-length dresses and white tennis shoes,
Might actually be dead.
You wonder if anyone else has noticed.
They used to run to the door when you came home,
When they were little, yelling
Mommy Mommy Mommy.
There were hugs.
Now you wonder if they even know you’re here
The TV’s so loud.
A shaft of afternoon light fills the entryway
You are golden in the dust motes.
Then you see the laundry, smell the stale, lived in years.
You feel so tired walking in the door.
Your husband comes from the kitchen,
Did you mow the lawn in those clothes, you ask.
You don’t know your lip is curled in disgust
But it’s plain on your face.
And now, on his, the tired empty passionless anger.
Seriously, he says,
You want to start this now?
On the floor the boys roll their eyes. Their hair
Looks like birds live there.
They have heard all this before. You stop to consider
Their clothes, and this house, and that man over there who’s really let himself go;
You are sliding downhill, into soulsick exhaustion,
Unable to stop the drop.
Things used to be so easy, things
Used to rise on their own.
In the early morning, before sunrise,
Ambien dreams fade slowly,
Leave you with the slow intractable resistance of a hangover.
The car rolls backwards to the street.
In the mirror, a face–so worn–not the one you remember,
Wonders if the mind doesn’t actually create reality
By pushing what’s inside out.