Around Salem, the size and number of homeless encampments have grown dramatically, and of late, with winter coming on, the process has accelerated. Homeless people appear now in places they were rarely or never seen before — in neighborhoods, walking along quiet roadsides, watching, resting, and waiting in the relative safety and privacy of brambles and brush and small stands of trees. Where there is one makeshift tent, others soon follow, and another miniature society is formed which mirrors society at large, with its own form of government, particular set of unwritten laws, and mode of commerce. The members of these miniature societies may not concern themselves with the stock market, or the latest styles in designer shoes made in the world’s sweatshops, or with the best service plan for their cell phones, as those do who are still employed and have a steady supply of food and a roof over their heads; but what they do pursue, they pursue as desperately and selfishly.
As fate and fortune would have it, at present I have a home. But I do not feel that this is something I have especially earned or deserve; the truth is, I feel absolutely no sense of ownership; I am simply a visitor on this earth, and a temporary steward of whatever life has placed in my care — the dwelling itself and everything it contains, the books, the family heirlooms of no value to anyone but ourselves, my mother’s pots and pans and old dented measuring cups, my father’s farm tools, and whatever other evidence of the family’s past that still survives, the old sewing machines and quilts, letters from friends long dead — there is no end to what this house holds within the confines of its few simple rooms. It is a veritable head on the street’s shoulders, supported by an earthen body content for now to stay where it is.
Now, shall I go out and find a homeless person and invite him in to share ours? Shall I have him bring in his lice and confusion, his drugs and disease? Or shall I, to the best of my ability, see to it that my daily life and actions add as little as possible to the problems of the world, and to the sick culture that puts people on the streets? Imagine a politician asking himself that question. Imagine, then see and understand that you and I are the real legislators of this sad human world, and that as such, our lives are always in session.
November 5, 2020
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Categories: New Poems & Pieces