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Friday, June 8, 2012

What Comes Next

Richard Musto
A crotchety World War II vet
With bandy legs and swollen feet
Hangs out downstairs
On my neighbors’ stoop
Coffee pots and trinkets
Spread out on display
Engaged in his unique
Form of commerce
By harassment
Pity and shtick
What more can
I do or say

Now so clearly I hear
My upstairs neighbor’s
Sage advice –
Don’t get involved
You have no idea
And it’s absolutely true
After almost a year
That I’ve known Richard
Taken a dozen road trips 
To Atlantic City on his behalf 
To the office of Veterans Affairs
And county welfare
Late night excursions
To the Emergency Room
This 87-year-old homeless man
Now comes to roost
On my doorstep

This morning
He cursed at me –
Why did you have
To get involved
I never asked for
Your help
And that too is
Absolutely true
I meddled here
At my own initiative
And what Colin Powell
Once said in reference to Iraq
May very well be true
Of men's hearts and minds
You break it
You own it

And by this logic
Since I helped
Break Richard
Of his lifelong habit
Of stubborn self-reliance
Paying for his room and board
Through the winter just passed
Today he sits downstairs
With his unpacked wares
Inescapably my problem

There are no agencies to call
No social workers to help  
Money itself is of little
Or no avail
I can write
Poetry or prose
All day long
And it won’t
Change a single thing

What comes next?
I haven’t the slightest idea
It’s an all too human condition
Beyond treatment
Or even palliative care
Other than a sandwich
And another cup of coffee
And wherever Richard may be
When I next go downstairs
The soreness still lingers
Like an abscess
On the heart

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