Carpe See ‘em
Homeless souls – some call them “bums on the street”
Folded small into their desperate beat
Solo bench or so-low depressed bunch
Waiting for a handout or maybe a lunch
One lady says, “Why bring him into this place?
I don’t mind bums but, right here in my face?”
She’s talking about Ed, who’s depressed, just like me
We’re cousins in ways other people can’t see
Tells me over bagels, he’s long out of work
Routed from working by some kinda jerk
who left a buzzsaw blade-out where he shouldn’t
Blindsided my new friend Ed, who couldn’t
avoid it, no matter how cautious… so now
Ed lives on a deadwood bench – but somehow
he knows “sometimes better’s bound to come”
His faith is real strong… so now who’s the “bum”?
Aforementioned lady attends church every week
I say, “You know, you just called Jesus a freak”
© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image obtained through Creative Commons thanks to psyberartist – see licensing HERE.
Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Grapeling challenged us to “carpe diem” and remember Robin Williams and his struggles with depression by choosing some words from a list and writing on the subject in whatever way we chose. Since I live on Bipolar Boulevard, all I had to do was walk outside, take this guy to lunch, and we ended up having a great conversation. He turned me on to a bagel place I’d never heard of; we had strong, fair-trade coffee; and over the speakers, I was gifted with a song I will use in ministry tomorrow… but that’s a story for another day.
Robin Williams used to make my hands shake a bit, remembering the cocaine days as he’d imp and jester his way through routines at spitfire pace. But I also recognized what lurked under the surface, as with Jonathan Winters (who was given a gig on “Mork and Mindy” at Williams’ insistence), Lou Costello of Abbot and Costello (whose depression was compounded when his two-year-old son drowned in his family’s new swimming pool, there’s Hollywood irony for you), and so many more. Lots of comedians learn their craft as children, trying to cheer up a family member or escape bullying or simply stand out. Jim Carrey comes to mind.
The woman in this poem actually ‘called me out’ while Ed took a bathroom break. It’s like people don’t want to see the homeless, but they don’t mind bitching about them when they are not in the room. She’s the kind of “Christian” who gives the rest of us a bad name.
May Robin’s family find peace. Thanks for the laughs, Robin. I’m sorry you couldn’t see a tomorrow in sight. Peace, Amy
August 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm
I’m so bummed about Robin Williams’s suicide, so close on the heels of Philip Seymour Hoffman. They each possessed an astounding light, but couldn’t turn it inward often enough. As a person who has battled depression all my life, I feel as though another kindred soul has left the building. It’s very hard to take.
As for your very “Christian” lady, people like her don’t see the common humanity, or how easily it could be her on the streets instead of him, as if the homeless were some other race that for some reason chooses to live under overpasses. She doesn’t know how lucky she is, or how ignorant she sounds.
August 14, 2014 at 4:36 pm
Sitting here processing right now .. your poetry, Robin’s death, the inhumanity of so many thoughtless people. Walk a mile in my shoes ….
August 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm
cool pen, Amy. I wonder if she’ll ever figure out or if she’s terminally ignorant… ~
August 14, 2014 at 9:36 pm
Depression can afflict at any social rung. The homeless devoid of wealth may be one and Robin successfully wealthy can be the other. It is simply a mind thing nothing to do with riches.It is a pity none reached out to Robin none knew for sure. He made the world laugh but he was not one to be laughing together. Instead he was alone.Great write Amelita!
Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
August 14, 2014 at 11:58 pm
Your eye to see the human behind anyone is needed by more Amy, and there are so many reasons for him sitting there that most people don’t care about finding out.. I might not do it, but I don’t claim to be better – compensating in a church bench.. All religion is about what you do, not ceremonies..
August 15, 2014 at 7:53 am
We’re cousins in ways other people can’t see…
I find this line carries a whole lot of truth. No matter who we are, we are cousins we members of the human race, and prone to misfortune, disease, disaster when we may least expect it. You told this story very well – I could see it all unfolding before my mind’s eye.
August 15, 2014 at 8:06 pm
People are so fearful of what they both don’t understand and understand (on some level). You are very compassionate–it shines through the poem, and you manage to keep up the narrative through the form. T hanks. k.
August 16, 2014 at 1:47 am
Your poem is, as ever, beautifully crafted and thought provoking and your narrative after, very moving. Two of my former pupils are now in the mental health profession and have written very movingly about their work. Your mention of all those who have made us laugh who were in a bad place themselves is something to think about too. Thank you for this sensitive and loving piece.
Love and peace to you, Sally
August 16, 2014 at 7:04 am
Blatant shows of hypocrisy always eat a hole in my gut. It makes me a kind of angry that sometimes I can barely restrain from bursting into someone’s face… through my fist. Very uncivilized, I know. But sometimes, people make monsters of us… thank goodness for whatever it is that keeps us from showing them. Probably words… yes, words.
Sherry Blue Sky
August 16, 2014 at 6:19 pm
I especially love the ending of your poem. Perfect! The woman….? Argh. I am saddened too by Robin’s passing – he gave the world so much. Love your sorry that he couldnt see a tomorrow in sight. So sad.
J Cosmo Newbery
August 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm
Nice one Amy, Cosmo.
Susie Clevenger (@wingsobutterfly)
August 17, 2014 at 12:09 am
I struggled so when I was in church with those sitting in the pews who wanted pretty church and not fill it with the desperate in need…dirty the carpet and such. This whole thing with Robin’s death has stirred my demons of the past into flashing images through my thoughts. So many have speculated about the reasons for his suicide, but that doesn’t help. We will never know. I know the voices in his head were relentless. I remember not being able to silence mine. Great write!
Carrie Van Horn
August 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm
What a powerful write Amy. So many judge what they do not understand…or should I say what scares them.
August 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm
Saddened by Robin’s death, also. Such a low, down-to-the-ground poem, Amy. Any of us out there with emotional problems understand this man’s plight, and the turn-your-back attitude of the “good people.” Thanks.