Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Panhandling



image borrowed from bing


Panhandling

“What will happen is they’ll go without, or they’ll panhandle,
or they’ll steal.”--Roger Miller.

“Who the hell are you?”
asks the homeless,
               the panhandler,
                     the downtrodden,
                           the oppressed,
                                 the suppressed,
“Why do you have & I have not?”

“The answer, sir, is simple, archaic yet futuristic;
I am you,
              another old soul on another
life journey.
I am a seeker, who
                        searches for tattered shreds
                                                                     of the Big Truth;
like that guy who walks for hours in a field
with his metal detector, 
& becomes elated
when he finds a Civil War belt buckle.
I am all the choices I’ve made,
             the effort I expended, 
             the people
whose lives I have impacted;
I am your teacher & your student,
        your brother & your father.
I am judge,
                 love,
        dissident, 
                 friend
        clenched fist,
                 compassion,
        kick from a work boot,
                 confidant,
        competition,
                 companion,
        team member,
                 empathy,
        loose cannon,
                 samaritan,
        observer,
                 helping hand,
        disobedience,
                 sympathy,
        adversary,
                 generosity,
        roadblock,
                 rebellious,
        hope,
                 impediment
        & laughter.”

“What?”

I have been black, white, red, & yellow,
practiced several religions,
been crucified, 
been burned at the stake,
been canonized & excommunicated,
stood with the crowd on the mount
listening to Jesus, rode with John Brown,
& have spent time in Buchenwald, 
                                  Atlantis
                                  Alexandria
                                  Babylon
                                  Boston,
                                  Havana 
                                  & Chicago.”

“Bullshit.”

I sense that I have been an ancient tree,
a spirit guide,
a slave owner & a slave,
no stranger to the sting of the lash,
the weight of the chains,
a white wolverine,
a red-tailed hawk,
a warrior who stood proudly with Spartacus,
                                                     William Wallace,
                                                     Garibaldi, 
                                                      Juarez & Patton.”

“Christ, you make my head hurt.”

“ I am nothing, yet everything,
no one yet everybody--
I’ve had wings, hooves, & claws.
I wrestle my demons
I am God,
as most certainly
you are.”

“But do you have any spare change?”

“ No, but what I do have for you
is a pair of hamburgers, some coffee, & a hug.”

“Fuck you.”

“ But gosh, we hardly know each other.”

“ Leave me alone!”

“ Be careful what you wish for.”



Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

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


                     

25 comments:

Brian Miller said...

ha. what an interesting conversation...the connection up front of it being another you that you are interacting with is cool....tied nicely with the us being a product of our decisions...and some we dont even get to make...and its hard too when one feels so beat up and angry at the world...i have bought hamburgers before and passed them out...and some care, some dont and well its not up to me to determine....

Claudia said...

I am all the choices I’ve made... it's interesting how we weave our life's carpet with each choice in another color, another pattern, another direction... i like the conversational style of the poem... makes it very transparent

Mary said...

That is quite a portrait, Glenn. Sounds like a kind of "Everyman" poem.... expressing the diversity that makes up humanity.

Björn Rudberg said...

First.. big kudos to the form.. the way you use a dialogue with a homeless person to describe the complexity of what is you.. I could trace a sense of Buddhism and reincarnation in your description.. the lists worked really well.. a powerful tool to paint an image..

Gabriella said...

Interesting perspective to tackle the questions suggested by the prompt. I also like the epic quality of your answers in this conversation.

annotating60 said...

Glenn this was very good, better than good. I loved the way you fit the dialogue in at just the right moments and the ending was superb. >KB

freyawrites.com said...

Loved this, Glenn. The sum of how we are now is a result of all the things we have done, said, experienced. We may not like them, but we sure need to get comfortable with them!

Grace said...

I love the conversation Glenn ~ In one hand, we get to know more about you, and on the other, you created a scenario by which we are defined by our choices (like accepting food & hug) ~ Enjoyed this one ~



Susan said...

Such a lot of material being: you will never run out. On another topic, I once gave money to a panhandler in Berkeley who said "Help! Please, the lawn of my Beverly Hills home is dying."

thecourseofourseasons.com said...

what a conversation! loved the lists of identities, Glenn - another intricate and moving poem - K

Linda M said...

This says it all:

"I am a seeker, who searches for tattered shreds of the Big Truth;"

Great details, Glenn, and I love that picture!

Victoria said...

If I were to keep a list of your poems in order of preference, this would have to be #1. I really like how you turned it into a conversation, how you absorb all of humanity, all of creation into your persona. This needs to be published! It's something to meditate on.

bwfiction said...

Glenn - this was super -

Reminds me of a time when I handed a panhandler a ten spot only to see him have to fight like a wildcat to keep it.

Even the downtrodden can be predators.

Laurie Kolp said...

I am all the choices I’ve made,
the effort I expended,
the people
whose lives I have impacted


... so true!

Kate Mia said...

In real life i often enjoy striking up a conversation with a homeless person..and what i find is often insight..and more often a history of mental illness of course...

My wife's brother spent some time homeless in California..and he is always the first one to offer the shirt off his back to someone in need...no matter if he has several more shirts or not..

i do often hear about stories like this about homeless folks..but at least where i live..

They seem a little more like
Jesus..

than the folks at church...

ahh..but i digress from the point of the story...
your insights into who you are...
are truly interesting too..:)

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I LOVED this conversation.......smiled all the way through it. Loved especially all of the past lives and creatures......a wonderful response to the prompt!

vivinfrance said...

I love all the contrasts in the earlier parts of this complex poem. We are none of us any one thing and you have summed it up beautifully.

Sumana Roy said...

an interesting conversation with so many memorable lines and truths....
"I am all the choices I’ve made,"..
the line has all the power to become a new adage...

ayala said...

I love the conversation...we are all our choices, mistakes,life. Enjoyed the poem!

John Thomas Dodds said...

First read on your blog and it was a pleasure reading your poem. Kind of like wandering through an encyclopedia of the human condition. The panhandler conversation was great.

Marina Sofia said...

These lines sent a chill to my heart - in a good way.
I am all the choices I’ve made,
the effort I expended
But, above all, I love the snappy dialogue, the sharp, grumpy retorts, the disbelief (maybe we don't want to believe those things ourselves).

grapeling said...

there's so much want in this land of... wanting - and plenty of conversations that many are unwilling to have ~

Anthony Desmond said...

All the ups, downs and sidetracks of life... amazing dialogue; I always like to give a couple dollars to the homeless (I don't usually strike up a convo--I'm quite shy w/ new people.) I was just talking to an acquaintance about homelessness a couple days ago; it really pissed me off bcus he said the solution was to "call some family members." I said, "do you realize some people don't have family to go to? or get disowned for being homosexual?" But he insisted on sitting in his throne of ignorance... really changed the way I looked at him.

Kathy said...

Well, we are our brothers' keeper after all and that means do unto others....it's uncanny how many of the choices you list in your admirable diatribe concur with word or examples I would use..only you say it so well..in summation, ".I am nothing, yet everything" and by the way, so are you! It did not resound with him a bit...to be aware of all of this means you are a sum ma cum laud of life...ahead of many who have not awoken...and compassionate soul that you are, it's near impossible to reach some people....we feel their ache...great form and response, Gllenn, and I liked the Roger Miller reference as well.

mrs mediocrity said...

I really love this... It has profound truth wound into a tapestry of reality.

There but for the grace of God, go I... is that how the phrase goes?

I felt like you portrayed that perfectly, while still acknowledging that our lives are the sum of our choices, sometimes one mistake can send us into a tailspin that is hard to recover from.

This has a lot of compassion in it.