Today I am a living witness
to what recession of love
and social justice means.
It is death to our beautiful dreams
of dancing to the tune of goodness
we have not met along the road,
this dance delicate and delicious,
even in these times of want.
I am this bag lady with my
smile announcing my coming
or your later afternnoon existence,
which is which, escapes me now.
A moment ago, in your class
pelting capitalism with its lies
its centuries of deception making my woes
and anguished heart into things,
you talked about your regrets in leaving
your homeland, the exile in you
in search of what cannot be found
from the sad place he comes from.
You are a bag man of memory,
I know, the nostalgia you gather
each day from teaching
what liberty is left after deducting
all our collective sorrow.
I used to be a dance student, you see,
and then went on to nursing school
to care for the downtrodden that gather
the refuse of the wealthy from their trash
to care for the sick and the poor
and those ready to die and I am 65
and I have nowhere to die
as I have nowhere to live
except to fill these plastic bags
with the refuse of the young:
soda cans in various shapes
and misshapen possibilities
hoping that with five cents
tagged in each
I could buy myself some drink.
And now you come,
telling me you have more of these
from the 4th floor, those you
picked from your wanderings
from corner to corner in this earth
and now these are all mine.
You think you do not need
them even as I wish I could have them all?
You think you do not want
them these cans that will promise
me a meal in the morning
until I can extend it to kingdome come?
What do you teach?
Do you teach about the ways of men
that brings about this want I do not know
one I have never known in my lifetime?
I have become a bag lady now
and each afternoon
I look into bins, green or black,
they do not matter to me.
I look into their insides spilling out
what food I can order from McDonald's,
a senior's coffee perhaps,
the tumbler for refilling until
I have all the sugar in my shrunk body
the taste of soya creamer
and the bad cholesterol that makes me forget
I am hungry for the anger
I have not found.
Thank you for the bag of empty cans
for the possibilities I will have
for the morrow that I hope
will still come.
I will see you here even as I see you
each afternoon passing by.
Say, say, what do you teach?
Say, what hidden sorrows you include
in the life of repentant exiles?
I want to come to your discussion,
share the knowledge I have gained
from picking from the rubbish
of mankind. I am bag lady,
and I wish that you will give
me the chance to tell my story
to come to voice with my song,
a dirge indeed, to make me cry.
I speak and it is evening, young
with so much promise in this valley
where the rainbows always come.
In the small hours between now
and the moment that I lose my tongue,
I go look for love in bins and this betrayal.