How I Got to the Shelter


No, I didn't want to crawl in these tents.
I didn't want to open this street door.
Afraid of what I might find in myself?
You bet. Yet here I am on the eve
of St. Valentine's day, watching Karen
hand out Valentine cupcakes
at the shelter as the men came in.
29 degrees on the car thermometer
as we drove down. I was caught
by my own poems, two poets
whose mothers are on the streets,
and several encounters with Christ
we won't go into here. Trust me,
they happened.  Some say
I don't believe in anything
except miracles. Others maintain
the empirical is all I know.
The monk's book on the hassock
in front of me has home in the title.
These men have so little
that it's easy to share.
They build community sustaining
themselves through winter.
Solidarity is only needed in Hell.
We all became homeless the day
Adam stepped out of the garden.
Two steps. Twelve steps. 120 steps.
That story in Milton, Paradise Lost.
As soon as you duck under the rope
you're on your own.
Adam stops, turns around,
looks Raphael in the eye:
One question, he says.
How do angels make love?
Not for you to know, he says,
blushing. But it's easier
than air with air.
interpenetrating desire,
no elbows, no knees.
Light inter-penetrating light.
I don't go to the shelter
for the men, I go there
for me. I know
what many people
think of the poem.
I'm down with that, OK?
Cards on Valentine's Day.
I don't put any of that on the men.
I love the way they thanked Karen
for red frosting hearts on cupcakes.
But I don't use that word homeless.
At some point, since that day
Adam ducked under the rope
it's about all of us.
How's your love life?

Jim Bodeen
15 February 2017

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