Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: The Dangers Of Nonfiction
I kid you not, the poem I opened the book to begins with the line Working at the Homeless Shelter. Sometimes that’s just how it happens. Enjoy the poem.
THE DANGERS OF NONFICTION
Working at the Homeless Shelter
Reluctantly he relinquished the pills he’d been hoarding.
I’d stolen his suicide, forced him to live again,
For those feelings, he said, I hate you, mama bear.
I wanted to tell his story to the world;
how easily people lose everything, through tragedy,
through drink, geeking and gacking and tweaking.
Women whose violent husbands cost them their children.
Women with no teeth.
His story came out in the newspaper,
when someone found his son and his wife
were not dead, just a divorce.
To Robert this separation was death.
He believed his terrible story, and so did we.
The article appeared the next day revealing his fictions
He slipped away before dawn, his backpack and light coat,
his fever, and his missing teeth.
Gone, not a word, no phone calls, not a look behind.
He told me he could not make it on the streets again.
You don’t know how brutal it is, he said.
Now he’s out there, by himself, the seven dollars
I gave him folded into his jeans.
It’s turning winter, and he can’t make it on the streets.
Because he believed his fiction. Which of us don’t?
What if our fabrications were laid bare? Who would run?
The truth won’t keep you alive on the road.
He crossed Key West, dipping first into the Atlantic,
then just a few steps to the Pacific, and celebrated
with pitchers of tequila, cases of beer and strangers.
He was at the ocean. He did have a wife, work, a PhD.
I believe his little brother died of asthma on the school bus.
I wanted to shelter him like a brother, I wanted
to bring him into my world.
Daily I pound it into my heaad
he was not my own. All I have left is his story,
all I have left is what I thought I’d known.