NaPoWriMo Day 9

the old man in front of target
is probably homeless
probably–i don’t know
haven’t seen him before
he isn’t holding a sign
or asking for anything

as quickly as he appears
he disappears
out of sight
out of mind
but when i enter the store
he fills my nostrils
human stink so arresting
i stop breathing

i wonder
how can someone smell
this bad
i wonder
how small can my mind be
that i run into this
like it’s a wall

we browse the same aisles
he carries a plastic bag
stuffed with other plastic bags
is he planning
on shoplifting
that’s where my head goes
a train on a track
because i suck
he walks past
the refrigerated dairy

part of me dares the target employees
or another customer to try
–just try–
to usher him along or out
part of me that knows it should be on fire
part of me made bitter on dregs of self-directed wrath
part of me that knows someone should speak for this man

that part of me doesn’t to spring into action
he is invisible
unless you count the smell
he might as well not be here
might as well be somewhere else
or nowhere else
or someone else
except
he is right there

by the time i check out
i am sick on my own shame

the weather (20171108)

and now
the weather report

tonight will be cold
mostly cloudless

the earth will exhale
homeless who do not have
a sleeping bag
or a tent to crawl into
or a car empty of gas but with windows

they will slide
into chambers like bullets
that can’t can’t can’t can’t
penetrate flesh
or tolerance

lucky for them
this is the coast
where the ice age
doesn’t descend
in sheets of actual ice

lucky for them
the weather is mild
lucky for them
lucky
they are lucky

they are knives
seen through windows
turn turn turn up the radio
they cannot cut
if they are sheathed

their cardboard magic spells
their incantations
they will not not not alter this

they will go hungry
they will become hungry ghosts
they will be silent as a vacuum is silent

Poem 20141225

my fist time in san francisco alone
at night I went for a walk
leaving the comfort of my hotel

i don’t remember
what street i had turned
but there were bars
and people spilling out onto the street
and in the gutter
a broken bottle of liquor

so many men and women on the street
so cold

i was bundled up
against the cold
and a man approached me
asking for money

and i told him no
i had told myself when i left the hotel
that i wasn’t going to give anyone money
on the street

i didn’t even speak to him when he asked
cheerfully
for some change or a buck
just shook my head and kept my head down
and kept moving
and kept my wallet in my pocket
along with my freezing hands

an old woman
who looked like she could have been eighty
wearing a knit cap
asked me as well
and with far fewer teeth
for anything i could spare
“please,” she said, “please”

and i remembered my grandmother
who had wasted away in a nursing home bed
i gave her five dollars
and didn’t say anything to her either
even after she said “god bless you”

i had to walk past the man who had asked
for money before
he laughed at me and said
“you’ll give her money, but not me”
but i kept my head down
but i kept moving

and when i got back to the hotel
the bed was shit
and i had a hard time falling asleep by myself
and i was still better off than every person
i had seen that night
just not better