BUMS ON THE ROAD

 

hobo

“Tonight I am a child. I do not know that the moon is not the sun.” Rafael Stoneman

1971

Hitch hiking from Oklaunion,Texas to Ellenville, New York
telling people about Jesus.
Dime in my watch pocket, the cost of a pay phone having risen so high.
People are mostly kind, give me food to shut me up
as if a man can’t preach with his mouth full.
Nearly died of dysentery in Ellenville
eating out of dumpsters what fell from the rich man’s plate.

Stole a jar of peanut butter while I was on the road
believing it righteous to even rob a bank in the service of the Lord.
A broken hearted man just out of prison taught me better.
Said, “Pretty boy like you don’t want to go anywhere near jail.”
One of very few converts that I made
weeping beside me in his mother’s Buick
not for crimes he’d done but for the mother dead and buried
her hair grown so long in memory it nearly reached the ground.

Preacher up in Brinkley, Arkansas
first put me up in a railroad hotel, then had me arrested.
I’d persuaded the youth director of his church to forsake all
take to the road with me!
24 hours in a drunk tank in Brinkley
before they drove us to the county line,
me and one old man the scriptures could not reach
so full of shame he could not help but drink hisself
to death.

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a hobo.
Back when they all had long Bible beards
black as Chinese rivers all in danger now of catching fire.
I see kids on the highway now
20 years old, leaving home without their teeth.
Mouth sores like a leper’s, eyes like campfires built inside of dripping caves.

Where I live in winter the sky is white as fish belly
cut open with a folding knife, water draining out of it.
Travelers keep dry beneath the underpass that leads to the river.
Driving by them in a work truck I sometimes give a dollar
but more often try to time it so I don’t get caught there by
the light.

Crossing the Columbia from Washington into Oregon
I feel a distance come up in me.
Feel the space between the sky and what I call myself suddenly
come to nothing.
Then I am seeing through the eyes of strangers on the road
feeling the common and the aching human heart
that wants to free itself of everything
or die.

Whether it’s Ripple wine or the clearest water, all of us are drunk
on something.
Then we’re dead as any traveler found frozen in a culvert
by the lonesome railroad tracks.

There is joy in knowing this. There is joy in knowing this.

That is what I feel on a bridge of fog between two states
but by the time I cross the river into Oregon, the stranger’s heart is gone
and there is only sky.
The Bible says we have no name that can be repeated.
It says that living with tears is also living well.
Even God sleeps in a rent house that may be torn asunder.

Sometimes I feel shame having lived this long, awake in the night
with so little still to give
but here are my empty hands in friendship.

What I have is yours.

.

Advertisements