Forgiven

He said:

 

I am so ashamed

My son would always ask

“Daddy, why do you work so much?”

He wanted my time, he wanted my touch

I didn’t know how to explain

Ten hours work a day

Builds up so much stress, so much pain

I couldn’t just go right home

I had to have a few

Watch the game with my guys

So I could try to come home

Without that glazed look in my eyes

At least that’s what I told his mother

I couldn’t tell my son

He was already under the covers

 

I said to him:

 

I am so proud of you

When Katrina came

And washed away your hometown

You spent your vacation

Down by the riverside

Gutting houses

Taking them down so they could stand back up

Lighting a lamp

To guide the way back home

 

Everyone’s got a history

That’s no mystery

Even the least of us

Has a beast in us

 

She said:

 

I am so ashamed

The men, they made those sounds

And I was listening

The sweat on my forehead was glistening

I had no pride

I let just anyone inside

Me

Daddy’s little girl

I gave pleasure to the whole world

And got nothing in return

 

I said to her:

 

I am so proud of you

No job, sometimes no home

Your three children and you were one

Like a team

Like a fist

If someone gave them so much as a slap on the wrist

Your fangs were bared

Their cheek was kissed

 

Everyone’s got a history

That’s no mystery

Even the least of us

Has a beast in us

 

He said:

 

I am so ashamed

The money was rolling in

I spent it on every possible sin

When the artists on my label

Would come around

To check on their checks

They’d come on the bus

Or in cars that were wrecks

I owed it

I knowed it

But I didn’t care

I was up cuz they were down

And I was the toast of the town

 

I said to him:

 

I am so proud of you

You came from nothing

From burned out shells

Masquerading as houses

You helped to make a home for a new kind of music

Selling twelve inch records out of the trunk of your car

Building the structure that would allow a new universal language to go

Wherever

Your gift has changed the world and may yet save it

 

Everyone’s got a history

That’s no mystery

Even the least of us

Has a beast in us

 

I said:

 

I am so ashamed

Who am I to offer a blessing?

Or to make spiritual pronouncements

Once I was homeless

Living in the bus station

Living in the train station

My station in life was lower than low

Alone in the streets, I was sliding toward a life of crime

Especially around dinnertime

 

But today when I see a homeless person

I avoid them

When they ask me for something I decline

I’d like to think it’s just my fear of strangers

Which is real

But the truth is something else

I know I may end up back in the streets

And I don’t want to face that

I want to erase that

So when I see the man at the off-ramp with his sign “Hungry veteran, please help”

I, a combat veteran who once was homeless, roll up my window

 

I want to organize a protest

A protest of my own selfishness

I want to picket my own rented, twice-mortgaged home

I want to start a petition campaign

To demand that me, myself, and I do right

 

I said:

 

I am so proud of myself

I have connected music and writing and art

To the struggles of the poor

From here to that hell and back again

 

I raise money

Gather food

Share my home and my car and my life

And above all

I offer explanations

Explanations of why things are the way they are

And above all

I offer hope of a world that’s different

A hope not based on fairytales

But based on facts and truth and history

 

I said:

 

I am proud of all of you for not being ashamed of me

 

We are all forgiven

We are not the problem

We are all forgiven

We are not to blame

 

Even the least of us

Has a beast in us

But don’t be too quick to judge us

We are the ones who will change the world

 

 

Poem / 2009