She Wants to Come Home

Says she weighs a hundred pounds
wears a size seven now – six weeks
since she left town on the bus

That fifty pounds melted off
almost faster than she could pump in the amphetamines
sores inside her elbows, behind her knees

Won’t heal, but she’s thin and she likes that
she wants to come home – visit daughters
who live now with their grandfather

The baby’s father says if she comes to town
he’ll take the baby while she goes into
drug rehab         but she can’t think

Can’t talk about him without    her head
feeling like someone’s twisting it off and
how can she trust him not to bring home crack

While the baby’s there, him and his friends
weighing it out counting measuring
talking shit and shooting up the profit

Says she’s afraid
family’s all against her, won’t let her stay
don’t want her to call

Tell her    she
brought it all on herself
I took you in when you needed a place

She whispers to younger brother sister
they turn their backs
how can you let me and the baby stay on the streets

You don’t know what it’s like
you haven’t got a Clue
jabbing herself in the chest

Her fingers clench into a curious half fist
one finger out stiff poking holes
into her chest

They remember her holding the big kitchen knife
in that clenched hand
almost sticking it into her stomach screaming

You don’t care shit about me or you’d help me
get help they say quietly to her
turn away again   tears in their voices

And she knows she has them
for at least a day or so until she can rest
maybe find someone who thinks she’s alright

All she needs is a few days

Written in May 1994




Advice (Since You Asked)

I used to know absolutely
What was right, what wrong
Not always which to do myself
But enough to give you good advice

After I left Jimmie I knew
And I would tell you with no uncertainty
If your husband beat you, divorce him
If Your wife spent too much
Your children were timid or fresh
I would have for your salvation
A word, a phrase, a book, a gestalt

After my son died, I’d say
“Life is too short to . . .”

Sometimes you’d ignore me
But sometimes you’d agree
Sometimes you’d marry her
Sometimes you’d move out
Take up with your wild side

Or not

But today I know I know very little
Nothing, actually
And what is right or wrong is not clear at all

I only know
To wake, to wash, to work
Laugh, forgive constantly
Spend what I have without remorse
Wear what I damned well please
Suffer without medication
Eat oatmeal, rice and curry, grapefruit

And love myself and others
For the children they are
For the children we were

Written in the summer of 1996


Is this the first poem
you had to turn to to
see what kind of person
I’d be writing about
to see if you know him or
her by the shape of the ink
or maybe you know me or
you know of me and you think
I might describe someone
here you already know and
dislike and you can let me
catch the heat for telling
it like it is,       Asshole?

(I wrote this in 1990 for the benefit of a fellow teacher who always wanted me to speak MY mind, but never wanted to speak (what he said was) his).

This poem might not be the best way to begin sharing on this site, but … it does rather suggest the truth – that I’m a bit of an asshole. For whatever that’s worth. I don’t know you, but I love you for wanting to share minds. love, h