A Series of Fortunate Events Part 3/3: Main Road Good News

Forgive me, if you’ve been following my thoughts in this particular trilogy of posts. It’s been many months since I’ve had the freedom to write a blog post. This week, however, it was impressed upon my heart to finish telling you the story. I must add, that there is one more lady who I have known since my first year of university whose story I would like to tell. We shall call her Fay. Furthermore, since I last wrote, my efforts to do justice by the homeless people I see in my day to day life have had some successes, some uncertainties and some failure, perhaps, though I can’t say I know for certain. I will mention a few of these briefly before coming to some kind of conclusion, though I don’t think the problem that the presence of the poor presents to the heart will ever leave us.

For the sake of chronology, I am happy to tell you that I have since run into Avril (Part 2/3) twice since our chance encounter on the main road where he first told me his story. The first time was after a friend gave me smarties after coming to tea (she forgot that smarties and sweets in general give me a sore tummy). Anyway, I thought I could treat one of the homeless people on main road with them. After walking another friend who had come to tea and stopping off at a shop for some reason or other, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a homeless man enter the shopping center- I could tell by his dress. I was distracted with talking to my friend, but then remembered the smarties and since I had only seen him out of the corner of my eye, I didn’t notice it was Avril until I had already offered him the smarties and he had said yes with a wide and toothless smile. There I was thinking oops, I did it again. Last time I offered him an apple, a man with missing front teeth. Now, I’m offering him finicky little candied bits. It took me a moment to remember his name (which is only Avril for the purposes of this blog) and as my friend slowly pulled me away (he was concerned for me) I asked him how he was and referred to him by name. His face lit up. It was beautiful to behold, the beauty that the human spirit imparts upon the face when a little love touches it. “That’s me!” he exclaimed, “That’s me! You remembered!” Unfortunately, I lost the tug of war to my friend but I did run into Avril again about a month later.

After having referred him to U-turn Claremont on our first meeting, he somehow found his way to U-turn Kenilworth. There he found food and dress as well as counsel from social workers who seem to have given him hope. They put him on a list to find work and he has clean clothes to wear, a bed to rest on and a place to clean himself until he finds a job and can look after himself. He told me that even though his wife was filing for divorce and she didn’t want him to return to KZN,  he felt that the Lord had plans for him in Cape Town and he was happy to be hear now that his basic needs were being met. Joy Hallelujah! And although this time he didn’t shower me with scriptural blessings, he was heartily glad to see me and thank me and tell me of the favour he had found since we met. What a privilege it was to listen!

As for Fay, hers is a story that she told me many years ago now, and I hope I get the details right. Effectively, she worked at UCT as part of the cleaning services until UCT outsourced all their workers to other companies. With this she lost her pension. Not long afterwards her husband died and she discovered that he had married another lady according to Muslim law and all of his belongings would go to his other wife. For some reason, her daughters had left to go to Johannesburg and had never returned. As a coloured lady, she spoke as though until that point she hadn’t had much exposure to black company. When fast approaching the age of retirement, she lost everything. However, she said she found tremendously kind family in the community of black  people living in the townships. She can sometimes be seen on Rondebosch main road trying to sell recorders and bubbles which she has acquired somehow and asking if anyone can perhaps buy food for her and the five children she takes care of.

She has been by far the most understanding and considerate person I’ve met on that road. She understands that I’m too broke to give very often and blesses me anyway and trusts that when I have I will give, and so I do. I have had moments of doubting her. Once when I walked past her smoking and muttering in a frustrated manner to herself, a ways off along Main Road  from where she usually stood. She didn’t notice me, I wondered if she abused substances. I think I was exaggerating the cigarette in my mind. The product of a conservative mindset (which in and of itself is probably OK), being that if you smoke you must d other addictive things that are bad for your health. I must say since then, I was a little worried when she approached me but she also gave me space when I asked for it, because she knew I would also give her a chance to be heard.

Just the other day, I saw her again. Just after I’d come into an allowance. Apart from the fact that I was getting her and the children a little something to eat, she seemed able to perceive a change in me that when I said was a result of ‘spending time with Jesus,’ she dreamily nodded saying ‘sitting under the blood.’ She was exactly right, of course, I could feel in myself a change in the past few months  but specifically weeks, the effect that ‘sitting under the blood’of that Revelations 19:13 robe of righteousness. She commented things I had prayed to Jesus alone. She blessed me further and brought tears to my eyes. I thanked her in an attempt to honour her in a Leviticus 19:32 manner. She spoke of how people often pass her by, but she knows that Jesus has a way of softening people’s hearts to give by no strength or merit of their own. I am certainly not a heart-warmingly good person all the time,  but the best thing about the Good News (what ‘gospel’ means) and the struggles of deciding who to give when and how much, is that when one sit’s under the blood, Jesus helps us decide and act. Jesus makes us more than an ordinary good person. We choose to believe that his way is good and  he keeps us believers in Good, by, in His never-ending mercy and kindness, showing us.

Moments before I ran in to Fay, a feeling of distrust informed by some interaction I’d observed of another lady on the streets stopped my heart from being willing to  give to her. If I had agreed and given in to the lady pressuring me to give out of a heart that wasn’t willing, I would have had to walk past Fay, who I’ve known for so long and had to tell her that I had given my word to the other lady who I distrusted. Now I’m not saying the other lady didn’t deserve to be helped. I’m just saying that the Bible counsels us to give out of a glad heart. I was glad to help Fay, and so I did. Where we’re not glad to help anyone, perhaps there we should not discriminate between who we give to, but always with care for safety and in reasonable proportion to our means.

As I said at the beginning, there would be some conclusions of sorts which you can read between the lines above. Some friends have asked me what I think about the beggars on the street, basically: what do we do? Ultimately, I think we listen to them and look at them in the eyes and in so doing we dignify their humanity and the lives they have lived; and then we pray. We pray about our prejudices, we pray about our capacity to give and then we give. How much, or how frequently I do not know, but when we give, we give gladly, of that I am sure.

 

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Do They Know

Who I am
Where I’ve been
What I’ve been through
What I’ve seen

The young lady walking down the street
Black ‘sister’
Hollered and hooted at by
Black ‘brother’
The slippery black grease of incestuous tones
Like they think she belongs to them
But hers is not their mother’s land.

Do they know who she is?
She is this daughter of the King.
Does she know?

Do they know:
The white people with some black friends

The black people, that their white friends—

really ought to know
That there is something to be cared about.

A fragmented identity:
Individually;
Historically.
Through the given broken mirror.
A present, the irony—
A given point of view
Thought to be becoming of one, but strange and new

Now we both have double consciousness
White privilege now given,
But new just to you.

Not incorrect, and becoming too—
But not quite true,
If they but knew
Not all of you, the ego I.
Not all I. Not all you.

Do I know?

No.

I’ve trusted the mirror so now I forget,
Or maybe I never knew… that—
It is a chosen reflection
An already determined double of
My real consciousness

But I have begun to dress myself
According to that view.
To see through that light
To look like that sight.
And wonder who is who…

Do they know?… the black people—
That we’re not a typeset black
That black men can be free to be…
better than who they are not expected to be
That they can fight to be free

Do they want to be, truly?

Do they know?… the protesters—
That marching is deceiving,
It’s peaceful ’cause it’s speaking
Like this.
But nation-building is beyond believing
Black memory is:

doing
creating
deciding

The shape, form, frame and cut
Of your own mirror.
Giving it to yourself,
Keeping it clean
And passing it down.

A template, but not a solution
And certainly not their reflection.
But a concrete invitation
For the next to do the same
Thus denying the power and pain of blame.

So they know—
Who they are.

A Series of Fortunate Events Part 2/3: The Human Touch

It has certainly been some time since I began this three part trilogy of thought based on a number of unique experiences with people who live on the streets ( I include Nick, the driver only because his life’s work to drive on the streets, though he has a home and bed and family to keep him company and comfort with every night, it was on those streets he drove as he told me his story that I experienced the human touch.) Yesterday I had another such encounter with one of the original 4 homeless men I mentioned in my last post. Now, because some details are hazy in my memory of Andy’s story, I won’t mention him again, but we’ll talk about Avril, Anonymous and Shane. Naturally, I will explain more of what I mean by the human touch. It’s evidence in all four stories, small parts of people’s very lives. I have seen them all often since my last post, or at least been struck by their presence near m, but I will begin with yesterday and work my way back.

Avril

I had just had tea with friends at my new flat (can anyone say privilege). One of my friends had brought me smarties. I think they forgot that I don’t like them, too sweet, the candy coating makes me feel ill. Anyway, bless their heart, it was such a treat when I later gave them to Avril. I hadn’t noticed that it was Avril initially, he has lost a lot of weight. I don;t know whether it is because of a life on the streets, poor nutrition and lack of food, or the fact that he has AIDS. Likely it is a combination of all those factors. Now the thing I noticed about Avril in our two striking interactions is that he has this child-like faith and wonder at everything about him. He rejoices like a child and fears like a child. He also seems to have a learning disability which makes him sometimes speak like child, though you can tell he means every word he says even when sometimes in his joy and surprise, he is at a loss for words.

Avril has grey hair, though, and he is much taller and older than me. He has no upper front teeth which made me feel awkward when at our initial meeting he asked for bread and I offered him an apple because I was late for a hike and had had no time to go back and buy him some bread. I was really sad when he had to point out his toothless situation even though I had already noticed during the course of our conversation. He told me a story of being sick, being sent to Cape Town from Kwa Zulu-Natal by his family so that he could go to a doctor to treat his illness. I don’t know whether it was the AIDS or the learning disability but it seems his family abandoned him after that.

I do know all of my reactions in my  head as he spoke to me, though. There was a lot of fear, which is silly because he had come to me and stopped me because he had been afraid and had been praying and felt like he should stop me of all people on the streets. Too afraid to sleeps in parks in the night time, he sleeps there in the day time and had felt all of a sudden to get up and find someone. A strange story. I gave him very precise directions to U-turn, a shelter for homeless people in Claremont, and wished so much that I had something else for him. I didn’t yet know about the U-turn vouchers you could buy at the Engen in Claremont that are now R30 for a pack and each voucher gets the person a bed to sleep, three meals and three items of clothing for the day. I still need to get on that. When I tried to go two weeks ago I only had R25 cash and that was last year’s price.

Anyway, back to that feeling of fear and how it left me. I grew up in a family where all my uncles and aunts were getting HIV and AIDS and dying. It wasn’t the healthiest or most secure environment. I remember my one aunt who had the disease always wanting to make me chips but I was too afraid to eat them, and especially to put tomato sauce on them because tomato sauce reminded me of blood and who knew what was in her sauce and those chips. Irrational childhood fears. I knew the sauce wasn’t blood and that I couldn’t get AIDS by eating her chips, or using her toilet, or breathing in too deeply when we visited her on her deathbed. No-matter how much time passed, or education I received. Some aspect of the fear has remained. I know I’m healthy and HIV and AIDS free but sometimes it shocks me that something so life changing, so body and soul wrecking can be hiding in the company of a beautiful human spirit.

The fear left when Avril began to bless me. Most sincerely, quoting beautiful extracts of Scripture to me which his precious heart had clung to somehow, I’m still learning that. I never saw him again until yesterday. I meant to call U-turn to ask if he had arrived and I never did. I felt guilty but I didn’t call, I had said I would but I had forgotten and then thought it was too late after the hike. It was a miserable excuse and awful situation. But then yesterday happened. Another friend blessed me with lunch at a healthy food place and as we left, I saw a man who looked dirtier than most and because I had been saying to my friend and praying to the Lord that I give someone on the street the smarties, I thought, here is someone who might like these. His face lit up when I offered them to him. I then noticed his lack of teeth. I realised that he was Avril, much changed physically over the past few months. I called him by his name, Avril, which is a pseudonym for the sake of his dignity. He was so surprised that I remembered his name, and so grateful. My friend pulled me away because he worries that I’ll get myself in trouble being too friendly to some people. I said goodbye to Avril and blessed him, in the name of the Lord. I hope he has been able to suck on the smarties and that they have reminded him of childhood and that he is valued, if not by men and women like me, certainly by God. I praise God for his sweet spirit despite how forsaken he seems. I hate the fear that makes me want to fear the flesh. I hate the evils operating beneath the flesh. I hope for better and for more human touch.

Anonymous

I see anonymous often. He walks at a pace up and down the streets of Rondebosch to Claremont, making frequent stops at dustbins to look for food. One time that particularly stuck me was when he got to a bin, just before a school boy on a break and on an excursion came to trow away what was left of his lunch. What passed between them was obscured from me by a bus stop in between me and the bin they were at. I just saw the boy backing away a few moments later with a slightly terrified look on his face. Anonymous can be quite scary. He likes to hit the pedestrian walking buttons to stop the traffic flow even if he isn’t going to cross. It has helped me a number of times. Not unsurprisingly, I haven’t worked up the nerve to approach him yet, and because of how aggressively he mutter to himself as he passes me sometimes, I wonder whether that is altogether a bad thing.

That danger factor. Another fear, and not an unreasonable one. Still trying to figure out when it’s not a good enough excuse to ignore a fellow human dining in dustbins.

Shane

Shane is different because he is there by choice. He sees that people who have are rarely happy. I think there is a psychological aspect to his chosen bondage to the street. He sees it as freedom. It’s funny though, when he says things are hard, and asks for a R20 note in January, from a student. If you think you;re sensing some entitlement on my part, you are. I see an entitlement on his part too, for his happiness never to be his own responsibility, but the burden of other people, dependent on their generosity or selfishness. I usually gave him food, and sometimes money, because I believed I wasn’t fueling a drug problem. But now I realise I am fueling a choice of irresponsibility. He has people who loved him and needed him, but he chooses not to choose them. And this brings me angrily back to myself as I demand of my self what entitlement I have to judge a man I do not know. It leaves me with a conclusion I do not know. but something of truth seems missing. He seems the least pretending, but I am not sure of his whole truth, and I don’t know whether it is my place to know his whole truth before I choose to help him.

 Nick

Nick, the driver, took a sharp turn and my already troubled laptop flew off the seat and crashed against the other side of the bus. I was sure it was finished, but here I write with the old bat. He told me how he’d had a bad day after I had snappishly told him that I hoped my laptop was ok when he inquired after it. He told me he lost his phone to a gutter early that morning and didn’t have time to retrieve it if he was going to be timeous for his job. He said he didn’t have insurance on it, or a contract, and that he had run out of insurance at the end of the previous month. As to contracts, he said they were for the wealthy. You have to be financially stable to be able to bear that load faithfully every month. He carried on to tell me about growing up in Cape Flats region and among gangs and violence.I asked if he would ever move out of the area and he said he would if there was money for it, which was not the case, because safer spaces are for wealthier people.

He told me how he had been in a gang until he realised that he didn’t like hurting people. I asked how he got his scar extending from the nape of his neck to his wrist. He said “a machete.” It was so strange to know that this kind little man, who had walked me down from the buses just so he could share his story and show me kindness had had such a violent past. He told me how he had an upright nephew who was also his godson until he had 10 exploding bullets shot into his back as he tried to protect his younger siblings all because he wouldn’t join a gang. Gangs need upright young men who stand their ground, and he stood. Nick was really heart-sore about it. I had to leave him though but before I left I felt i needed to tell him that Jesus loves him. We spoke at the same time. He insisted I go first. So I told him. He said he knew that that was what I was going to say. I asked him how he could know that. He said because of the light in my eyes. He said “Young people don’t read the Bible these days, the read other things.” I told him I knew how he really got out of the gangs. His eyes twinkled.

A Conclusion of Sorts

A conclusion of sorts will be the third and final installment of this series of fortunate events that gave me various perspectives on the poor and the privileged, on fear and on charitableness. I know this was long. Well done if you made it through to the end. These are just some of the workings of my heart on these matters and how I was affected by human contact that was more than a physical meeting. Human touch is the impression of the life of one human on the heart of another.

 

Christmas in Two CBDs

Christmas in two CBDs
The place both my mamma and me
disdain and cleave
respect and fear
need then leave.

PTA and JHB
Pretoria and Johannesburg
The former last
And then the first.

Johannesburg dejected and feared
the CBD looks almost clean
Vastly diminished in population
People have gone back to their nations
Brave breadwinners to bread tables
Tables in places with faces aglow

And its character has a certain grit
a solidity and grace—
I fail to describe
Not grippingly enough…

The heat and the sweat—
A threat to one kind of merry spirits
and companions of the other
In both the former and the latter.

♦♦♦♦

Old Avenues of Jacaranda trees
Outline Pretoria’s streets
Side walks polluted by more than shadows
But by holiday feet and excess feast
Blackened by the grime of time
and by man’s utility.

The best for a cost: brought low as a conscience
Is the bargain for the Christmas Box
Indicating the belief that true value is unattainable
we want gold and pay with a painted rock, if that—
and so it is:
When hearts are darkened
by evil desires: like greed
believed to be deserved
and freed
for the season’s festivities

Festivities allowing that troubles depart
Or bringing to a head:
The loneliness of the lonesome,
that hope of the homeless
And gratitude for warm nights and no rain
for those without a bed.

♦♦♦♦

Because the future hasn’t happened yet.

A Series of Fortunate Events Part 1/3: An Introduction and Passive Privilege

It’s been a while since I’ve written for the sake of writing. Thanks for coming back. I have virtually no following and a dubious number of stellar things to say. I do, however, I want to tell a few stories, only fragments, only parts. Today I write about the poor and oppressed—broad categories—I know. Right off the bat, I make no claim to use the politically correct terms. From my perspective, however enlightened, I’m talking about those less privileged than myself. I refer to those who can afford less, and visibly so, since privilege and wealth are practically synonymous- as far as I can see, as I wander the streets of the Southern Suburbs, Cape Town, South Africa, in November 2015. There were three homeless men, who we’ll call Andy, Anonymous (because we never really had a conversation) and Avril and there was a driver of a jammie shuttle (university buses) who we’ll call Nick. There was a fourth homeless person today, who I see very often, and we’ll call him Shane. I’ll save the telling of  observable aspects of their stories next time. This is just a story of little bit of how my icy heart melted— so that it stopped freezing me from the inside and freezing others out.

This series of fortunate events (fortunate, because I gained some heart) came at a time—and the time continues—when I was starting to become really concerned with the state of the poor, of social justice (very generally,) of human hearts with respect to other human hearts. I will begin with my encounters with the homeless. I would monitor my behaviour, my inclinations, when I was approached by a homeless person and I would monitor those of others, I still do. I have from a young age been troubled by how adults I looked up to—literally—would ignore them, or give them their own leftovers. And I thought, “Oh my, what did that person do to deserve that?” or “Why are they here?.

In recent years I began to think whenever I encountered the homeless:  “Oophh, this is terrible, this is terrible, I’m so scared, I’m so uncomfortable, I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to give them money, I don’t want them to look at me! Why are they looking at me!….” and eventually i would say out loud “Hello.” They would have greeted me with an “Excuse me,” a “Miss” or a “”Madam.” It was all very distressing for me, particularly how they used what I can only describe as a colonial tone of faux (at times)-reverence to  address a younger, black person. That said,  I’m glad I picked all those thoughts apart. The were indicative of a few things: righteous awareness of truth, cowardice, fear, guilt, judgment and passive privilege – in that order. Now I don’t know about you, but those things didn’t sit so well together. The only good among them was ‘righteous awareness of truth’ in response to my thought of : ‘this is terrible,’  because it is terrible to think that I wouldn’t even for a moment in my day, look at a person in the eye, and acknowledge their lack and my comparative abundance and to consider the fact that most of us ignore them, the Andy’s, Avrils and Anonyomous’— not even dignifying them with a gaze, not even wanting to.

So what. Some friends around me started something, I felt obligated to join, I knew I needed some way to ‘deal’. It happened for two or three weeks  over a year ago and dwindled out of existence. We would meet to make huge amounts of soup and go sit and eat with the homeless people on a main road in our city where most of the homeless faces we knew and often passed by resided. And so we did. We sat, we ate, we talked, we prayed. I didn’t initially intend to bring this story up, but it’s a good way to finish off this introductory post because these encounters are what began to thaw the ice around my heart— the ice of my perception of who and why ‘homeless’ is. I met people. They slept on the street, yes, and no I didn’t always get the truthful story, but they were people. Their situation in life didn’t make them any less entitled to a good meal, or a movie night after a rough and emotional day and a warm bed to sleep in and good pillow to weep into. Most importantly, and this liberated me: my situation in life didn’t entitle me any more either.

I heard stories that vexed me—of hiding between the folds of building roof structures to keep the Cape Town winter winds and diagonal rain at bay —of being ignored even by the gangs who would terrorise everyone else except for them— not considering them human enough to be of concern, with the only upside being their safety. Now this is not to say I have necessarily resolved anything, but I’ve made progress. I’m a little bit better at looking at things for what they are: myself for who I am, so that I can look at them for who they are. I can let them catch my gaze, and I can know what to say, even if I can’t wave a magic wand, or all the money and willingness in the world to make everything better. With less panic, and less fear, less guilt and no lies, I can dignify them.

As  St. Paul writes to the church in Galatia:

Only, they asked of us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. ~ Galatians 2:10

The Western Refugee “Crisis”

I would like to begin by saying welcoming refugees into your country does not necessarily mean crisis, future mixed blood, more thinly spread resources, maybe (though budget cuts in clever places would put that glorified education and natural talent which got you the top government job to good use)— I talk a big game, I  don’t think I fully understand the implications of that, but it’s the thought that counts. Conflict caused by spillover is unlikely when asylum seekers have crossed many borders to get out of the reach of the violence which they are escaping.

Secondly, skip to the last five paragraphs for motivation to read the long quote to follow, but reading it chronologically will make more sense.

A beautifully crafted summary of refugee law provided by the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights:

The Definition of a Refugee

International legal protection of refugees centres on a person meeting the criteria for refugee status as laid down in the 1951 Refugee Convention. Under Article 1(A)2, the term “refugee” shall apply to any person who:

“…owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

Thus, according to this provision, refugees are defined by three basic characteristics:

  • they are outside their country of origin or outside the country of their former habitual residence;
  • they are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted; and
  • the persecution feared is based on at least one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

It is important to stress that the term “asylum seekers” refers to persons, who have applied for asylum, but whose refugee status has not yet been determined.

The principle of “non-refoulement

The obligation exists under Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention not to return a refugee to a country of territory where he/she would be at risk of persecution:

“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

This is known as the principle of non-refoulement, which is considered part of customary international law and therefore binding on all states. The principle is also incorporated in several international human rights treaties, for example the 1984 Convention against Torture, which prohibits the forcible removal of persons to a country where there is a real risk of torture.” {International Refugee Law}

In light of all this, Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders seems morally appalling not to mention illegal since Australia is at the top of the alphabetical list of those who signed up to the Rome Statute which includes the Refugee Convention of 1951. The fact that they would poll in outrage  that no money  be given to the people smuggling people out of their war torn countries in order to turn the boats back (Non-refoulement kind of illegal) and simultaneously be upset that they didn’t cut down their foreign aid budget speaks to cold hearts if ever I saw one in the collective conscience of a country. Why don’t we talk about Australia more, other than to say it’s pretty? {Operation Sovereign Borders ABC commentary}

Hungary, as a the gateway to the EU, claim that they can’t possibly bear the increased influx of Islam believers into their and other allegedly (what can I say, I’m a pessimist on this matter) Christian EU states, is frankly not good enough. We are people. When did it become our job to permit humanity to other humans? Particularly since Hungary were communist until just over two decades ago, and Marx wants the church and all religion to burn… {Hungary’s Christian fears}

Having the privilege not to have to live in a dangerous land, it doesn’t seem like a sufficient reason to make people try and earn our company and earn a share of our security. Why are the refugees still in social cueues?

That’s all. There will most assuredly more, hopefully better thought out things about this topic.

Like vertigo, but love: Too many, too much.

I continue confounded
My life seems well-rounded
Carefully smoothed at the edges
Edges where a moment like this
In vertigo— yet reality—of privilege
like insanity

This blanket is mine…
And this one too…
And the electric one…
My belly is so full it hurts.

I have to eat junk for my wounds to heal
And abundance of junk and medicine
to fix my aches and tummy too,
from being too full.

I speak the language of ‘too.’
And I have known it too—

Yet in our house our helper wakes before the dawn
to prepare the way for our days.
She sleeps on a mattress
a quarter the height of mine
with half as many blankets
and half as much heat.

What a curious circumstance
A moment like vertigo
but is reality, solidly.

Ours is a time of too many and too much
and I don’t know what to do with it
Who or how to give with it
Why or where?

Why— motivated by my lacklessness or their lack?
Or their lack and my love?

Or just love or—
just lack or—
pity or—
duty

But
Love.