Friday, January 09, 2004


They made me leave
The church too soon
Again this morning.
I left at seven,
Already hungry, wanting to stay a while and pray.
God knows I need to.
"Come back at noon for sandwiches," the man said. Baloney.
"Baloney and cheese," he said.

They give each of the men
Two sandwiches at midday.
So many men shuffling
Reaching up in helplessness and shame
Reaching up to a tiny open window, each for his two baloney sandwiches
With no mayonnaise and no lettuce,
Then trying hard to keep studying what's left of his shoes.

But I'll be too hungry at noon for just two slices of bread -- too hungry
For baloney
With no mayonnaise.

Oh my God it's starting again.
The fear
That makes my hands and feet hurt every time.
My mind a set of wheels that's left the track, now flying,
Going a hundred and forty miles an hour, even more,
Threatening my mind with its own insanity, as I just try to drive the thing
Coming at me with rage and fury I can't hope to control.

My belly an angry, a ravenous, really ugly cat,
Hissing at me furiously, angrier now than before,
Telling me all day and all night that I need to eat need to eat need to eat.

My corduroy dress
Is dirty now,
Shapeless and worn out,
It had a hem once; the dress and I were proud, neat and pretty together.
I loved wearing that dress
That's a now a torn blanket I wear to cover me.

Adhesive tape holds my glasses almost together,
My short hair shaggy and ugly and long,
Loafers worn sideways, now useless,
No wonder children are afraid of me.
Oh my God the children are afraid of me.
Just how does one ever change such a thing as that?
How does one make such a thing no longer so?

Fear becomes terror,
And terror's now anger; now deep down angry rage.
And I myself am the terror. I'm the rage; I'm the terror,
Rage and terror are who I am and they're what I am.
Neither leaves me; I never stop being what or where or who I am.
All that I am, I'm bound here by life and by necessity,
Having no money at all, and no decent way to get money,
I can't just stop being here where I am
And go where life is good.

But now I'll find a way to
Get myself some chili -- or a plate of meatloaf
Or something equally beautiful.
Maybe I can do that; I mean I absolutely have to.
This looks like a spot. This corner will maybe work for something good.
People hurrying by seem happy to be going where they're going.

"Excuse me Sir, excuse me, Ma'am,
Do you have a couple of dollars to spare
That maybe you don't really need?
Something you've maybe sort of tossed into one of your pockets?
A dollar or two you could give me,
So that I'll be able to keep on living, too?
I'm just so absolutely, so totally, really unbearably, hungry"

"But thank you both so much! The world's a better place now,
At least it is for me, and that's all
Because of you two. Blessings on you both forever!"

I wish I could never again get hungry, never have to be humiliated and beg again.
I'd never ever ask for money from strangers, if I could just find a way.
But I'll get hungry again for sure. I'll have to beg again.

I wonder if that church
Will let me in again tonight so I can hope to sleep there again.
I want a home of my own so bad so bad so bad.
I was brought up in a family -- well brought up and truly educated once,
Always, especially, to live and run a well-kept home of my own.

But that can never be -- will never be for me to have a home,
Sleep every night in my own bed.
I'm the woman I've become.
But there must be some sort of reason
My life's now the painful, angry, ugly thing it is.
There just must be some reason. I keep wishing I knew.

Copyright 2004 by Diana Allen Strelow.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

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