After all the times I looked away
as my dog led me through the homeless woods
and a woman stooped at a camp-stove
looked up and waved at me,
and smiled –
after all the times I looked away
and felt lucky but guilty because I had a home,
and sad but powerless when the powers-
that-be said they couldn’t camp there
and drove them away –
In this reincarnation, I come in thrift-store hand-
me-downs, still escorted by my dog
who goes up to each person she’s known
in passing, tail wagging, and
she licks each hand
as if she knows them all by name
and scent, the people who lived in natural places
without title or key but simply
lived, and waved at strangers and their
dogs, and smiled.
I hear Django in my head –
his hot-jazz singing strings, surname
of the fox – as we approach
what used to be the homeless camp,
a troupe like traveling actors
with shopping carts in place of caravan,
rehearsing ageless truths.
Shakespeare as their last venue.
The words forgotten, taken to heart.
Reinhardt playing in my head.
At the edge of oakwoods, the homeless
would smile at me and my dog
as we passed through,
before the city bulldozed them away.
Have you listened
to two-finger gypsy guitar
when it sounds like
Miranda about to meet her new
and hobos, wayfarers, romani,
where is our home?
I’ve lived in one place too long.
God bless you and Job’s Shelters
for all you do for the homeless.
El Dorado County Poet Laureate, 2016-18
Homeless Support Dinner