Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Spare change

Ran across this old poem I wrote many years ago. Seems kind of apropos given that I'm making a film about homeless people.


(Copyright (c) by Ron Garret, all rights reserved)

The man says, "Got any spare change, mister?"
Now as it happens I do have spare change.
There are seventy-seven cents in my coat pocket.
I know because I just bought myself a Snickers bar
And paid with one of three crisp dollar bills
That were up against the fives
That were up against the twenties
That came from the magic money machine.

The man looks at me with burning, sunken eyes
That look as if they saw one day too many on the street
About a year ago.
The hair that once was golden
Now is black and stringy, greasy
The hand that holds the broken paper cup
Is sun-dried leather
The clothes that hang like flying-dutchman sails
From bony shoulders
Are as dirty as the street they know so well.

Poverty makes strange bedfellows.

"Got any spare change, mister?"
The man does not repeat himself.
The paper cup speaks for him.
The paper cup, the hands, the hair, the eyes
Peer through my stoic facade and into my coat pocket
At seventy-seven cents.
The eyes gaze at me with a longing and desperation
That I have never known for anything
At seventy-seven cents.

Response comes thick and fast and automatic:
My mouth says, "Sorry, no."
My head bows in regret
My legs pick up the pace
And I walk briskly away
As if only the urgency of my business prevents me
From acting on my true nature
And giving him my seventy-seven cents
And asking his name
And shaking his hand
And offering him a meal and a bed and a shower.

As I walk away I think of a thousand good reasons
Why I'm doing the right thing.
Funny, though, none of them really sound convincing.
But they are enough
To keep me from turning around
And going back.


cerebrator said...

Bravo! Do let us know if it's finally released.

Gotta love the poem too.

Natalia said...

the poem certainly paints a daily reality for me... trouble is, reaching into my pocket is not the solution either... I have tried it and felt just as empty... or even worse... with the realization that I have now taught a Cambodian mother holding a baby and 3-year child, to keep showing up at the exit of bars at 3am with her children half asleep on her arms, because it works...
in the end, not sure what does more harm.

Anna said...