SOMEONE TO CATCH

I used to work in Pacific Heights, in San Francisco, a wealthier part of SF at the hospital there. I taught Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) to priests and ministers who wanted to become Chaplains or who needed to take CPE as a requirement for their ordination. Often I would walk down to Fillmore St. and there regularly encountered a thin, Mr. Peabody looking homeless guy who always stood out front of a bagel store with his “Can you help me?” sign. I´d occasionally give him money, buy him coffee and sandwiches and then one day I asked him simply, “What´s your story?” He was a machinist in the Air Force, he said, when his father died. He went to help his mom out, somewhere in the upper midwest, and when they found that the money his father supposedly had did not in fact exist, he had to leave his position and stay with her. Work was slim but enough for the two of them. At least he had his tools. Then he lost his job and she got very sick. His benefits ran out and the money dried up. He sold his tools to pay for rent. Eventually she had to be put in  an old folks ´home and the house was sold to pay for her support. He was on the street and, after one horrible winter, hitched to SF where he´d been living on the streets since. His stories of living on the streets were heartbreaking. Every day he stood in front of the bagel store and every time I could, I went down there to say hi, get him something to eat or drink and if only for a few minutes spend time with him. I left SF and never saw him again. But as we approach the end of the year, with the cold and the cheery music everywhere urging us to shop for what we don´t really need, maybe we can reaffirm a bit of goodness and help a homeless person. No one should have to live on the streets. No one. Wherever we look, there´s always someone to catch. This is for them.

SOMEONE TO CATCH

There are cracks on the pavement
& one in the sky,
there´s a rumble inside us
& no one knows why.
There are voices we hear
and shadows we watch,
somewhere ´round the corner
there´s someone to catch.

The brownstones are silent
the taxis all drive by,
inside the coffee shop
they give us the eye-
no food & no money,
no place to call home,
we wander the dark,
we wander alone.

Some cops killed an old guy,
four thugs lit another,
I´ve got to keep walking
or I´m the next number.
Across from the alley
some girl frozen stiff,
behind me there´s old blood
I can´t think of this…

Tomorrow is grayer
the night comes on fast
we all have no future
and everyone walks past.
Some days there´s some money
some nights a little food,
but when it´s all done for
it´ll do me no good.

One check threw me down low,
the second threw me out,
for seven long black years
I´ve wandered about.
The roads all go one way
the people they take,
I´ll still be here Sunday,
so please don´t be too late.

That sandwich was Heaven
that coffee so warm,
especially at night
or in a snowstorm.
It all doesn´t make sense
but neither´s my cough,
“hey buddy!” I´ll cry out
but most just walk off.

Alone on the sidewalk
a body was found,
two dimes in his pocket
when they turned him around.
Nobody to claim him
no one to say bye,
maybe now there´s that sandwich
way up in the sky.

There are cracks on the pavement
& one in the sky,
there´s a rumble inside us
& no one knows why.
There are voices we hear
and shadows we watch,
somewhere ´round the corner,
there´s someone to catch.

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