Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Off Ramp

Image borrowed from bing

The Off Ramp

“I think giving money is the worst thing
people can do. It enables panhandlers
to manage their addictions.”
--Bill VanderMeer
Director of the Union Gospel Mission

In California it is usually Hispanics
selling oranges or flowers,
but around here as you line up
for the light at the head of the off ramp
the panhandlers rule,

young and old,
usually solo, but the other day
I saw a young couple on the curb,
he was shirtless and had long dirty hair
as he played a pawn shop beater guitar,
she was braless in a skimpy halter,
wearing a floppy men’s fedora.
They had a weaved basket between them,
and several large bills were stacked up in it.
Their sign read:
“Need to pay rent to her Mom next week.”

A dwarf in an oversize pea coat and watch cap
sporting a patchy beard:
“Out of luck--need a buck.”

A young man with a soldier’s buzz cut
in a torn Seahawk’s sweatshirt:
I’m like Obama-I need change.”

A handmade cardboard sign
stuck in a flower pot read:
“Broadway panhandler moved to 65th
and E. 8th--appearing between 
11 a.m. and 7 p.m.”

A well dressed man in a business suit,
with spiky hair and clean fingernails:
“I love to help. Need to give. Please take
some money.”

A 6’ 4” 350 pound Samoan in a wife beater,
wearing long shiny sports shorts and flip-flops:
“Need money for a DNA test. My girlfriend
might be my sister.”

A stooped over elderly man wearing a filthy
wool overcoat, bald and toothless:
My wife has been kidnapped, and I am 
$5.00 short of the ransom.”

A large legless black man in a wheelchair
with his portable O2 bottle in his lap:
“Give me some money or I’ll kick you
in the face.”

An old woman with cheaply dyed red hair,
balding in front, with a wispy mustache:
“Granny needs to have a tattoo removed.”

A short middle-aged man in a nasty looking
soiled sweatshirt with cut-off sleeves, his
filthy arms covered in tattoos:
“Need money for alcohol research.”

A youngish man with bushy unkempt hair,
wearing glasses with masking tape at
the center, missing several teeth:
“Will take verbal abuse for money--God bless.”

A tall muscular black man in a backwards ball cap,
wearing a high school letterman’s jacket:
Need money for beer, drugs, and hookers.
Hey, at least I’m not bullshitting you.”

A large sign on the side of a city bus:
“Promote real change--not spare change.”

A small sign tacked on a phone pole:
“Panhandling is legal--get over it.”

Glenn Buttkus

September 2012

Posted over on dVerse Poets

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Claudia said...

oh my...Granny needs to have a tattoo removed..that cracked me up...i usually don't give money as well..when i have time rather buy them something to eat or

Brian Miller said...

its a bit overwhelming you know...all those needing help...some get pretty creative with their signs as well..ha...i have eaten with many a homeless...i used to buy a sack of burgers and go spend my lunch hour with them when i lived in MD....its not as obvious where i am now...still some but...they are there...really cool piece man...

Marbles in My Pocket said...

Don't see them as much where I live now, but remember all this from Austin. You covered it well with this one! The last one pretty much says it all.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

“Need money for a DNA test. My girlfriend
might be my sister.”

Got to admire the humour shown here but still sad that there is a need to do it...

Anna :o]

Dana Dampier said...

Is that really what their signs said! Wow, they are getting creative in their desperation to make some money.

mrs mediocrity said...

great job of using humor to show the true tragedy of the situation... heartbreaking.

Sabio Lantz said...

A brilliant, hilarious tour through a pathetic scene.

I had to look up "wifebeater" -- damn, I love those shirts.

OK, funny-sad perhaps. Not one of your nasty pan-handlers was a recipient you'd seek out. I guess you are telling us Bill VanderMeer was right.

I was once "Cursed by a Chinese Beggar" -- if you are interested in a short post.

Dave King said...

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry reading these. Maybe that's what you intended. Excellently done.