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Monday, July 16, 2012

What it Means to Be Homeless

This poem is for and about my friend Richard.  It is part of a larger work I am deeply involved with (in collaboration with the photographer Michel Delsol), a new book entitled The Life and Times of Richard Musto.  You can follow the progress of my collaboration with Michel on our blog (richardmusto.blogspot.com ).  I'm not sure if this poem will end up as part of the finished work, but in the meantime, here is the first draft of what I just wrote:

What it Means to Be Homeless

Sorry but I forgot to mention
Something that Richard
Said to me
The other day
When Michel and I
Visited him
In Atlantic City

In the course of
Explaining to me 
What he found most
Objectionable in the
First two chapters
Of my book
Richard said
And I quote:

Although you seem to
Have a good vocabulary
I think you made
A serious mistake when
You described me
As a homeless man

Because in fact
Not just theory
Richard maintains he still owns
His mother’s former home
Out in Tottenville
Staten Island
Although long ago
Having defaulted on
Overdue taxes
The house was boarded up
And technically abandoned
Richard nonetheless believes he should still
Be considered the last owner of record
And if so
That would remain his legal residence
Notwithstanding wherever
His present domicile happens to be
Right down through the present day

So it seems we all
Poets and First Army vets alike
Should be careful
When we write or speak
Not to throw words around
Too loosely
Considering the emotional
As well as the legal import
Of the things we say 
Particularly when
It is the human heart
About which
We’re speaking

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