I went to college at Carson-Newman in Jefferson City, TN. My junior year I got a job as House Manager for the homeless shelter that was owned and managed by my college. It was called Samaritan House and stills exists, although they've changed locations since I lived there. I moved in and spent my last two years of college managing the day-to-day of the shelter and helping w/the volunteers. Most people thought I was insane to live there. It was a unique shelter, in that we only took in families, not single people. Families stayed together. It was an amazing, terrifying & all together beautiful experience. This poem was written in 1991--after a particular conversation with one of our residents.
Afternoons at the Shelter
"Brang me that," she says
scratched and scruffy underneath.
Promptly, I respond,
handing her the bottle
as heavy as guilt.
She lifted it up,
Just enough to look through the bottom.
Muttering, "there's somethin' 'bout the rain,
makes me restless, angry."
"Yeah," I stutter, "maybe it's cause
everything slows down & Nature can
laugh at us humans for a while."
She let out a vicious growl.
"Honey, Nature's been laughin' at us
since the day we was born,
you best learn that."
Lit a badly rolled bugler
bitter on her breath
ashed on the table.
totally against the rules...
Time split open in one second,
She grabbed the bottle
pegged it into the wall...
heeing and hawing from her well-earned gut
See--there an't shit you can do about it honey,
somebody's done been ticklin' her feet."