Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I'm still recycling poems from Free Verse and Worse, one of the blogs I'm closing down.

This poem is about 15 years old. It's a composite of stories I heard from a couple of homeless men who were guests at our church during "WinterHaven."

WinterHaven is a cold-weather shelter operated by 20 congregations in and around Laurel, Maryland.  For nearly twenty years, these congregations have taken turns keeping homeless men and women from freezing to death during the winter. The guests stay with each congregation for one week.  They receive a warm bed, dinner, breakfast, and a bag lunch. Sometimes during his or her time in the shelter, a homeless person will decide to give up life on the street. He or she embarks on a difficult journey that may eventually lead to sobriety, sanity, and a permanent place to stay. An impossible dream for too many.

This poem reflects the kind of guest we usually saw in the early 1990's:  male, middle-aged or older, alcoholic. Since then, the typical male guest has gotten younger and is often addicted to drugs as well as alcohol. Some are veterans. Ten years ago, Winterhaven began welcoming homeless women. While the number of male guests ranges from 20 to 35 per night, we usually see no more than a half-dozen women all season. Typically they suffer from severe mental illness. 


The judge asked me,
"Why did you go there
When you knew..."
And I said,
"But Judge, she's my mother."
That other woman there,
she turned my ma against me.

I was born on Christmas Day,
had just two Christmas trees
my whole life.
Called my ma and told her,
"Ma, its gettin' cold
and I need my sleepin' blanket."
She said she'd leave it on the porch,
but that other woman there,
she turned my ma against me.

Drives her to the store
Drives her to the doctor
Drives her to the bank
I said, "Ma, I'd be glad to do that,
only you know I don't have no car."

That other woman,
she wants to get my house.
I said, "Ma, you didn't sign no
paper giving her my house, did you?"
and she says, "No, Son, I didn't,"
but that other woman there, she
turned my ma against me.

Another woman, friend of mine, said,
"Don't go over to see your ma no more,
because that woman will kill you."

No one likes that woman.
Her old man, he don't like her.
Her kids, they don't like her either.
That other woman there, she
turned my ma against me.


Debra said...

I work everyday with those people. My heart breaks for the spiritual, mental and physical poverty they suffer from. You do what you can to help...often it's not enough. Loved the poem, thanks for sharing.

Lena said...

It is a wonderful thing that your church did for the homeless. I can not imagine not having a home.

I know it is so hard for so many to get themselves on the right track.

I loved your poem. You are such a good writer.