Monday 24 April 2017

Poetry Monday ... With A Warning

It's Poetry Monday -- started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, and picked up by Delores at Mumblings, and celebrated here at Procrastinating Donkey -- pull up a chair and join us.

You can read, comment, critique, or add your own poem at any participating blog, or at your own -- just leave your blog address in the comments to let us know where to look.

Today's poem was the result of ruminating on two incidents that I experienced a couple of years ago, within a month of each other. This is the poem I mentioned writing awhile ago but didn't want to post because I felt it was too dismal. I said I'd post it on a day when we all need a good cry.

Well, I don't know about you, but I've been in a bit of a blah, bleak mood the last week or two, so I'm ready to put it out there. But I certainly don't want to bring anyone else down, so this is fair warning: read at your own risk.

Spreading misery instead of cheer. Way to go, Donkey.


Three Souls


"You got any money?"
A harsh voice, startling me.
A stranger: tall, rangy, vacant eyes.
"Sorry, I don't carry cash."
Almost the truth: two dollars in my pocket. Heart hammering.
Not keen to be bullied into giving any amount.
He erupted with a curse, and "I had nothin' to eat since the morning. I need some money."
I wondered if swearing would turn to striking.
Wondered why he was asking for money for food on an empty street
After all the food shops were closed.
He strode away, cursing me loudly.

Later, I wondered what he'd have said, or done,
If I'd offered him the banana from my work lunch.
It didn't occur to me.
Too scared to think.
Too worried by his anger.
And, to be honest,
Too upset by his expectation
That all he needed to do was demand,
And he would be given,
And forgiven.
Would my two dollars have been enough
To make him less angry?


"Excuse me, could you spare a couple dollars?"
A gentle voice, dignified.
A stranger: tall, rangy, too dark to see his eyes.
A cold night, outside the grocery store.
"I don't have enough money for my rent," he added.
"I just need twenty-five dollars, and my landlord will let me stay."

Five dollars in my pocket.
Five dollars from my hand to his.
"I'm sorry it's not more."
"Thank you; bless you," he said quietly.
Later, leaving with my groceries, and with items for him,
He was gone.


I know hunger will make rough edges,
And corrode the soul.

And I know that addiction serves a purpose:
Dulls the senses, dulls the hurt, dulls the emotions.
(Did addiction even have anything to do with anything?)

And, further, I know that giving is better than withholding
Even if the gift is -- or seems, at times -- mis-spent.

And I know that conditions shape us, and our parents shape us,
And exposure to the elements and mental illness and being out of a job
And physical pain and not enough warm clothes and -- god, there are so
Many hard things that shape us -- being ridiculed, being bullied, being ignored,
Being invisible, being passed over, being rejected, being beaten ...

But even knowing all those things,
Why ... why ... why
Was it so much easier to give to the second man
Than to the first? 



Elephant's Child said...

Yes tears. Of gratitude.
Thank you. And your huge warm giving heart.

baili said...

i am glad you shared this my friend.
i will be feeling better after a while i know .
such observations kept me in pain for years [since teens to thirty plus almost]
i was annoyed with my Creator and complained for the injustice of his distribution of his blessings .
Wrote lot and lot .i blacked tons of pages while writing about it with teary eyes and painful heart.
by the time after marriage hubby taught me lot about being grateful and wise in observations.studying the life and all about and realizing that everything has it's own meaning and purpose and TIME and needs effort towards betterment .
we all are equal as human yet different in our attitudes which shape us to what we are

Red said...

You've shown that the homeless issue is most complicated. Nice contrast with the two men. awesome.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Oh, my goodness, yes! The need was probably just as great, but I would have done the same!
Am I judging? I'll only help when I deem it right? I have suffered through this same dilemma.
Beautifully done, Jenny!

only slightly confused said...

Very though to why it was easier to give to the second's just human nature I guess. A gentle request is almost always met with a positive reaction.

Diane Henders said...

Your poem struck a chord with me - I've been in the same situation many times. I feel guilty if I don't give; and guilty if I do. If I don't give, am I denying somebody the only food they might get for the day? I've given people McDonald's cards and they seem surprised and not all that pleased, which leads me to wonder if I do give, whether I'm only funding the destructive cycle of somebody's addiction. There are no good answers, but your poem is excellent!

jenny_o said...

Thank you for your kind words, EC. I didn't feel like I had a giving heart in the first case. And in fact did not give. But it made me think, and what I think is that I should have.

jenny_o said...

It's good to know that others struggle with these things, baili - at least I am not alone. Thank you for reading.

jenny_o said...

You've summarized it perfectly, Red - complicated.

jenny_o said...

Thanks, Diane - I feel better when I know I'm not alone in being confused.

jenny_o said...

Logically, I knew the first man needed something just as badly. But you're right, it was the way the need was expressed. And I think I know a bit better what I should do in the future.

jenny_o said...

Thanks, Diane. "No good answers" about sums it up.

e said...

I don't think this needed a warning. It is very apt in describing a worsening set of problems everywhere...excellent effort!

jenny_o said...

Thank you. I think I was feeling so down in the dumps I didn't want to cause anyone else to fall in there with me :)

dinthebeast said...

Perhaps the first one felt a bit too much like a robbery and brought on all of the safety concerns that accompany the idea of being robbed. I wouldn't have given him anything either. Don't beat yourself up over it, we can't help everyone.
The thing is, I've been homeless and addicted myself, so I can relate to the situation without toxic judgement of it, but manners are still manners, and you can't expect to bully people into helping you. There are professionals who do that job for a reason, and I find it sad that the folks who need them most are often least likely to seek them out. Perhaps he was having a bad day and feeling frustrated about it.
There is a woman in a wheelchair who frequents the parking lot at the store where we buy our groceries, and I always try to have a five and a bit of cheer for her, and she seems to appreciate both in equal parts. I once gave her an extra ten because she said she needed her diabetes medicine, and I happened to have it to give, and I was a little worried that it would be awkward the next time I saw her, but it just wasn't. She is happy to have people who treat her like a human being, and she knows I understand because she sees me with my quad-cane and we've talked about how easy it would be for any of us to find ourselves in her situation.
Support comes in many forms, and appreciation is an essential part of the equation. We all have our parts, so to speak.

-Doug in Oakland

jenny_o said...

I'm glad you weighed in, Doug - a most helpful appraisal and some new things for me to think about. Yes - any of us could be homeless and/or addicted for any number of reasons. There but for the grace of god/luck go I. Thanks for contributing.

Martha said...

No warning needed for this! This was so wonderfully profound and thought-provoking. Sometimes we just don't know what to do or why we do what we do. And sometimes we judge without meaning to. The homeless situation is heartbreaking and complicated. It is a very difficult social issue.

Terry said...

It made me sad.

Steve Reed said...

An angry approach is never a good one. Even though the guy WAS angry, I'm sure -- and not at you but at conditions and the world in general.

jenny_o said...

Yes, and from what I've read and heard, the true depth of the problem is hidden, especially for youth.

jenny_o said...

Me too, Terry.

jenny_o said...

Yes -- and undoubtedly he had reason to be.

Geo. said...

A very good poem, Jenny. Certainly the poverty, homelessness and desperate need around us saddens me but your willingness to help --your compassion-- raises the poem's mood and offers a direction for greater public action.

jenny_o said...

And yet I still don't know what any of the answers are. I guess we do what we can do, when we can do it. I think.

Thanks for reading, Geo.

37paddington said...

This poem is a moving reflection on our human condition, and beautifully thought provoking on the subject of giving. I'd wager that you will give to both men in the future. And hopefully so will I.

jenny_o said...

Thank you, Angella. I think I will at least have a better attitude toward the first kind of person in the future, and hopefully a kinder reaction.

The Happy Whisk said...

I didn't feel this needed a warning, either. You did a great job writing and I could see everything as I read it. Well done, you.

Geo. said...

My pleasure, Jenny. I wrote a little essay about poetry at "Trainride of The Enigmas" last night, regarding the connection of emotional charges among some poems. It's like they wait in our minds to find them.

jenny_o said...

Thank you, Ivy. It feels good to know that a reader has seen what you're trying to get across!

jenny_o said...

I'm heading your way now!

Anyone else who wishes to read Geo.'s essay, just click on his name up there and then on "Trainride of The Enigmas" to find it.

Mr. Shife said...

Nicely done, jenny_o. Beautiful stuff and thank you for sharing. It gave me all of the feels.

jenny_o said...

Thanks for reading, Mr. S. ... Hey, aren't you a day early? :)

The Happy Whisk said...

It is a good feeling. I agree.

Happy Weekend and boogie boogie.