Men Who Make the Rounds
Men who make the rounds
of the ashtrays
around the exits
of public buildings care less
about being seen
when temperatures drop below freezing.
They are asking for lights,
about who was kicked out of which shelter
and where there might be room.
You can’t charge your phone at Sally.
You can’t miss curfew at Pete’s.
There is a lunch at the Episcopal church.
There is a sign-up sheet at the library.
There is a cold weather room at parks and rec,
they have some coffee. They have paper towels
in the restrooms, not air dryers.
Meanwhile, the women are in the bus station
in the hard chairs by the vending machines,
talking about families, about ex-husbands
who would have been good men
if it weren’t for…
They show each other photos of their kids
or of their parents, or they tell stories
about photos they wish they still had.
The Barren River is rising.
are moving their things up the banks,
under the trestle that hasn’t seen
a train in decades.
Hobos without trains
are a sad sight.
The homeless are no
It is no
to be a character
without a home.
or odd jobs
I stopped by my strong friend’s house
and caught her crying.
I was caught off guard and stuck in place.
Her elbows were on the ledge just inside the back porch window,
her head in her hands. I stood there a while on the patio
like in a museum unable to move away from a painting by Edward Hopper called
Sorrow Through A Window.
She looked up and came outside, down the damp brick steps.
When she opened her mouth to speak she just sighed; kept her eyes on my shoes.
I said, “Good Lord, are you OK?”
She wiped her eyes with her flannel sleeve.
I said, “Whatever it is, will you be OK?”
My friend looked at me and said,
“Man, I think it was OK for about 3 months in 1996.”
I asked if there was anything I could do.
She exhaled, turned around, walked inside
without asking me why I’d come.
I went home and watched her timeline like
a cable news ticker on the eve of war.
Late that evening she posted: Man, you can bring me a rocket ship.