“Requiem for the Homeless Man” by Philip C. Kolin, Reading God’s Handwriting: Poems, Kaufmann Publishing, 2012.
He died of an overdose
of neglect; who cares
that he was one of the hidden
people exiled from smiles.
His sores were so heavy he had to lean them
against a wall, a bench, or a gate,
or let them fall
into the gutter where he belonged
What’s left in his pockets is scarce
a few dollops of lint,
two or three mustard seeds,
a browning lily folded in two
like his life
His obituary made the evening winds
flying his soul to the bosom of God
If you’ve read it only once, you might want to return to the beginning and read it again, aloud, slowly. Let the images sink into you heart and mind.
It is possible that Kolin was inspired by a parable that Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31 usually entitled “The Rich Man and Lazarus”. However, the genesis of the poem could just as easily have been in any American city from New York to San Francisco.
How can we be united with God. It sounds simple, i.e., care about what God cares about. Unfortunately, God’s name is used far too often, to justify what we and others care about. I find great help in the life of Jesus, where over and over again, it is the poor, the outcast, the suffering who attract his attention and care.
Kolin’s poem can remind us that caring for the homeless, is God-like care. We touch the divine when we care for the poor.
A haiku from several years ago:
remember this truth
voiceless poor are dear to God…
seek their wellbeing
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