Santa Cruz, CA
On a cold sidewalk, between unhappy trees,
A shirtless man flails at concrete, on his belly.
He's talking to himself, or demons he knows,
Turning away from paramedics, from time to time,
To hack up a pool of phlegm, and it runs to the street.
Do you wake up one day and decide to give your life
To this kind of work, to the kneeling, to the waiting,
To the gentle coaxing of a flailing sad man, retching?
Do you look at all the possibilities, all the things you
Could be, and choose to ride a bright red truck
To the post office steps where a sick soul
Who will never know your name pisses his pants?
I'm tempted, with the others, to cross the street,
Not to see him or you or the broken heart of a city.
But you bow at his side as a priest before an altar,
A sign of the hope we all bear, but seldom confess.
There is no greater love, no greater service than this,
To touch a man possessed, to see in his eye a friend,
To wait for him to finish retching up blood
So you can gather him in your arms.