During my San Joaquin Valley childhood, there were still a few boxcars used as homes, tucked away in odd corners on useless bits of land. Nestled in mounds of chickweed, with old blown tires and chickens in the yard, they seemed like seeds scattered by a giant’s hand, or fruit fallen from a tree in a homegrown fairy tale. Life inside could not have been comfortable, too cold in winter, too hot in summer, but humans have a way of fitting out whatever place they have, with anything from grape box furniture to dented, salvaged pans. The front door was the back. It was also the window, and regulated the flow of air and dust and dragonflies. It was a mild form of hell. And yet it must have been better than living on the streets, or in encampments on the riverbanks, which is so common where we live now. Also common are makeshift tents in doorways, which are usually cleared away by the time the stores open, belongings piled high in shopping carts, and men in various stages of decomposition gathered around the mission door.
Far away, in an alley,
of one fallen
Poems, Slightly Used, March 13, 2011