Saturday, 13 June 2009
The people of the street possess a weird freedom
From the fading vestiges of the American Dream,
That straitjacket worn much as the suit of armor
Of the knight who, glimpsing his reflection, pitched
Headfirst into the moat and was not again seen,
Dragged under by the weight of his own protection
From what in the end he would never even know.
Self knowledge being the last property to come,
The first to go. Another cold night, body pain, slow
Progress between Vine and Safeway, paused at
The corner hailed by Dave the Irishman, now shorn
Of his beloved and badly abused canine companion
Jezebel, sequestered in the pound
For the nth time a month ago, ne'er to return
As Dave could not pay the fee this time round.
Dave is banned on Shattuck. Clustered up
With the tall haunted Tom Waits lookalike guy
And a Latin dude with a handheld video player,
Carrying a formidable knife. Dave proffered
A Foster's in a paper bag, the invisibilizing
Container which shields crime from police eyes.
The night deepened. Some drunken high school
Kids mocked us from the bus stop, falling over.
Unconcerned, Dave cartwheeled round the corner.
A couple of gangsters sidled past casting
Meaningful glances at the video player
And the Latin dude's hand moved to the pocket
With the knife. At the stoplight a well dressed
Couple stepping carefully around us, compressing
The distance between their four hundred
Dollar Chez Panisse dinner and their parked
Ride to as few tiny cautious steps as possible,
Not saying a word, stiff with body armament,
And then traffic flowed with the changing of the light.
Homeless man: photo by Colin Gregory Palmer, 2005
Affordable housing: photo by Chris Sansenbach, 2005