Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

All Saints, Revenant


File:Homeless New York 2008.jpeg

I've found all saints lost at midnight in the rain
Seek shop doorways fit to lay their bodies down
And dwell upon the sins that have expelled them:
Those sins, O Friend, which they perceive as wounds

Inflicted they know neither why nor by whom,
Nor in defiance of what remorseless laws.
The wind that rakes the street is unforgiving,
Warmth but a memory, winter coming on,

The concrete cold, the cardboard pallet sodden,
God far away, but unfortunately not Man,
Who motors past to get to bars or home,
Completely unaware they're bedding there,

Splashing sheets of grey water out of puddles
That wash over them in chill waves they may
If they so choose trust to wash their sins away,
Dimly aware at last they're given something.

File:RNC 04 protest 96.jpg

Homeless man, credit crisis: photo by J.M. Suarez, 2008
Homeless man sleeping on street: photo by Jonathan McIntosh, 2004


xileinparadise said...

Tom -- your "homeless" lyrics always on the money. They can't be ignored, yet they are. But they have you. You are their poet.

TC said...

Thanks Pat, I can't at this point presume or afford to look down on anybody. And at least they speak to me. It's a wordless understanding that occurs when abjection recognizes its mirror image there on the common pavement, and fist-bumps it instead of spare-changing it. Though of course that comes well short of their appointing me to speak for them (talking about presumption). It is nonetheless impossible not to try, especially as the cold season comes on and the streets (along with that vast misnomer the economy) turn more and more brutal. Like it or not this is, it seems, "the colour of our times": uniform desolate historical-bleak, behind a glittering transparent facade of uneasy lies.

xileinparadise said...

The poems, I’ve seen maybe a half dozen of them now, here and at Cyber Corpse, have an authenticity and righteousness that is quite compelling. I thought that when I came across the first one and am convinced now that these are works of great heart. A social realism, for lack of a more accurate phrase, that harkens back to the thirties. Those gripping photos of the dust bowl, the bread lines, the apple sellers, the dejected faces peering from the boxcars, etc. Your poems are just as evocative. Allow me to be the presumptuous one, as someone who has enjoyed your work over more than just a few decades, and say that these are among your finest. What’s that old saying? “Give up at the end of the race? That’s when you put on a burst of speed!”

TC said...


Thanks very much, from you these words mean a lot.

It's been odd, humbling and sometimes bewildering to have found myself (shall we say semi-voluntarily) in the middle of actual subject matter for the first time in my long journey. As with all strange dreams, the deeper you are sucked in, the harder it is to count on the magic escape-hatch charm of saying to yourself, "Okay, now it's time to wake up!" (Have there been stranger dreams of abjection since the late Middle Ages than are realized and commonplace upon American urban streets right now?)

Zephirine said...

I'd second xile's view, Tom, I think what I privately call the Shattuck Avenue poems are among your finest, and this is one of the best, for me. It has a classical simplicity which sets off the misery within like a thin black frame, and emphasises the sharp cut of the last line.

I saw a man begging the other day, on a pavement in Kingsway in London, and he had gone to sleep kneeling crouched forward like a Muslim at prayer, his head practically touching the pavement but his hands still stretched out, cupped to receive small change. It was one of the most melancholy sights I've ever seen.

xileinparadise said...

"The world belongs to me because I am poor," sez St. Jack.

Anonymous said...

Your words. Your words Thomas, always make me think and stand back to question such.
'Those sins, O Friend, which they perceive as wounds'
I could pick out several lines which resonate within me, but this louder than all.

TC said...


Yes the melancholy of these scenes, in a world of such advertised riches, is almost more than one can bear. And yet there is then the even worse sadness of the hardness that comes with time in both the broken players in these fractured street dramas and the passersby who can no longer make the painful conscious act of looking upon that which cannot be borne.


If only.


Yes that's the line that makes me, too, wince with its ravelled complications.