Thursday, April 30, 2020

One of my poems from February, 2011

A Sign

The madman chalked red X’s
on the sidewalks of the houses 
if he suspected 
or had evidence
that people there 
were unkind to each other, 
or their dogs.

When he was a young man,
he studied hobo signs 
chalked on railroad cars, mailboxes, fences, 
buildings in barn yards, 
in towns he probed.
Signs that said “doubtful”, “mean dog”, 
“be ready to defend yourself”, 
“dirty jail”, or “nothing doing here” 
sent him away
or might draw him closer 
to investigate.

He was a harvest hobo, 
following the crops in the West.
Once beaten senseless, and left to die 
in a Fresno alley. 
They laughed when they punched and kicked him, 
stealing his knapsack and his kit. 
The beating injured his brain.
He was never the same. 
He lost all inhibitions and good judgment. 

He couldn’t remember what rows to pick
when he picked grapes in Visalia 
and oranges in Porterville. 
He lost track of time, and had to write everything down. 
He made little sketches so he could find his way 
back to his box under the railroad bridge. 
At night, he played his harmonica 
until he dropped into dreams of his days as a boy 
or his job with the city.

He dreamt of the beautiful woman that gave him
a whole pie when he begged for food at her door. 
He dreamt of the old, black man that looked into 
his eyes for a long time before tears 

The old man saw himself in his eyes. 
He saw a man with even less than himself, 
and it was more than he could endure. 

The hobo impressed the dirt path 
in front of the man’s simple cottage 
with a new mark – a mark never seen before. 
It was an austere eye, 
a large tear in both corners, 
made with polished pebbles 
and shells he carried in his pack.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

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