Ordinary Times (Poetic Prose)

Ordinary Times (poetic Prose)

(In three parts: “Ordinary Times”)


Whenever I’ve traveled – since the age of nineteen years old – I’ve stepped down into the so called under – world,

with more of a mind of an explorer,

yet at times I’ve got caught in this motley world, in which has made me thankful of my youth, and strength,

to escape it, lest I become buried in it…

It has of course, humbled me in spirit to have witnessed and lived this passage of life –

Having a distorted life indeed, has made me, thankful.

In Seattle per near starving to death,

nearly robbed, and rain drenched, yet finding work because of my youth and strength –

In San Francisco, I eaten at the Mission House, slept on porches.

In St. Paul,

I slept in my car three months, once, and thereafter in my youth, a day here and day there, especially in my youthful travels, in an attic for a six month period!

And on and on and on and on I could go, and on, but let me pass onto things as I saw them in several places I have traveled throughout the world, such as:

wondering the streets in India, at 2:30 a.m., in Jaipur, and Cairo, Egypt, and London Town, etc… !

And the times have been ordinary times, not a crises for society, yet society has mismanaged its way making each decade look as such, to justify doing nothing about something they could, have done, such as: wipeout poverty!

I must say, society in its upper strata, acts as if there is an extenuation for a crisis…

Part One


I am from St. Paul, Minnesota, a cultural hub for the United States, with one of the largest Universities in America –

In Rice Park on benches, by the Ordway Theater, in my middle years, in old abandoned buildings throughout the center part of the city in my youthful days, and later years:

here is where the down and out, the tired, and hungry, sleep!

At the Grey Hound bus station, is where they rest, leaning on walls, sleeping on toilet seats, elbows on their knees, palms covering their faces: the old, the weary, the cold and hungry!

I have seen them, witnessed this, and at times lived it.

While in Cairo, I saw Arab women sleep under cardboard boxes with infants, on bridges not that far from The Sheraton, five star hotel.

While in Istanbul, young teenage boys, sleeping above outside air vents, made of cast-iron, to warm their bones;

once awaken they become instantly, shoe shiners for the tourists coming out at 8.00 a.m.

In Athens, kids and women run up to your car to wash your car windows, old couples roam the streets at night,

– penniless, migrating from Istanbul, Turkey, looking for any kind of work wherever, I talked to them…

yet too old and too weak and too tired, and too hungry to lift a sack of potatoes –

The San Francisco at the Mission House, they will feed you if you listen to their long preaching for four hours or more –

London, you need simply walk to Piccadilly:

The down and out can’t sleep at night so they sleep on benches there in the day, they

Cover their heads on their knees, avoiding the dropping of the pigeons, they put old newspapers over their heads –

I’ve saw it, I’ve lived it…

In Santiago, Chile, I call them: “The People of the Walk,” they sell their goods like in Lima, on the streets, on carpets, or blankets, or mats, and get kicked out from one place to another,

like rats, by the police, who at times will look the other way

if they’re tired –

It is a dilemma, they don’t pay taxes, and scorned by the store owners, for they block their business, but they work…

The night people in Buenos Aires, I call them the “Paper Pickers”

I’ve talked to them, time and again, each time I’ve travel to this salty city, there for a day or two, watching them work like gophers…

They bundle paper and cardboard, and other such things, into bundles, and sell them to the government;

With a wheelbarrow they tug the paper a mile away to have it loaded on a five-ton truck –

They work from 2:30 p.m., to midnight, make less than a dollar an hour!

The first time I met them, was in 2007, the second time, in 2010.

The oddity of this: wanting to work and wanting sleep, and eat dilemma,

and the police unwilling to allow them to at night is quite unproductive:

You see, during the day they are too weak and tried to look for work! Anyone would be had they not had a little sleep at night, not having been chases out from one place to another –

Nor having a penny to eat bread, milk or oatmeal!

They are hungry, sick from the rain, penniless

and in need of all such things –

Some find archways under bridges, during the day;

in parks they sleep with their heads on their knees, dozing –

Police gruffly, they stand by trees in Central Park, in New York City… awaiting the inevitable.

The diseased, the mentally ill, sleepwalking in empty buildings, in St. Paul, San Francisco, and the City of Angles, in Lima too.

Many disappearing into the drunkenness of a stupor, in a dark alley –

In Lima, waiting in the hospital for assistance, a penniless neighborhood security guard named Angel sits on a wooden bench, hour after hour after hour, and having a heart attack in the wait –

He up and leaves the bench to get his breath, and dies in the street!

This is uncommon! But should it be?

And the city applauds the nurses and doctors for keeping the budget low and straight!

Not lazy, just tired, down and out, people: most of these people are caught in old age, never did escape this poverty state, lost their strength got ill, or got caught in an accident

Never to fully recover –

no compensation in most of the world, –

And too hard to get without a lawyer.

In Lima, women hire babies, from mothers, and beg on the streets of Lima, they make more money than on a steady job!

After several hours, they gather together later and divide up the goods!

In Istanbul, and other places in Turkey, where I’ve been, teenage girls weave rugs, for a few years, sold to free labor…

One girl begged me to take her out of this life, she jumped on the tourist bus, got on her knees begged, and she was fifteen, pretty with sorrowful eyes –

Children in Huancayo, Peru, sell candy in the Plaza de Arms, for grandma, or their uncle, if they want to eat… not get beat,

Left to rot by their parents on the streets…

The lucky ones get into the orphanage, I’ve visited several throughout Peru, as well as old folk’s homes too –

These are the lucky ones!

Stretched out full on the damp wet grass, in nearly every park in the world I’ve visited, and I’ve been to fifty – six countries, and forty – six states in the United States,

I’ve seem to find down and out men sleeping from exhaustion, many from drink; lost, forsaken, giving up, awaiting to die –

In Spain, Madrid, beggars on church steps cursing you for a dollar…

Vagabond women in Lima, walk the streets of San Juan Miraflores, prostitutes, young and old, feeble and bold…

And those that don’t find garbage cans, eat what the dogs and pigeons, eat!

As they do in Jaipur, and Delhi, eating out of piles of garbage.

In St. Paul, bums eat at Mickey’s Dinner… sipping coffee slowly waiting for someone to leave a piece of meat on their plate –

And then at sundown, find their way to the Dorothy Day Center, for a night’s sleep, as well as the Mission House;

Or under the Robert Street and Wabasha Bridge, or wherever, Rice Park, the bus station, old buildings vacant –

Some down and out folk, sleep inside of the White Castle Restaurants –

Until they’re thrown out!

Woebegone wrenches, drunks, down and out folk, all manner of men, women with children, boys to boot –

And yet these are not what I call hard times, perhaps not easy –

Here are the homeless and hungry, tired and worn out folks!

What do the elite do?

“They made their bed, let them lay in it,” they say.

You see, the rich and powerful, think another way:

They think no matter what you say, they are doing society a favor, and even if wrong, right will come out of it!

No: 4521/ 11 – 22 – 2014

Part Two

One in Four

I felt as a young man, I was destined to die on public charity, perhaps before my 25th Birthday –

Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are:

I would die either in the workhouse, perhaps the infirmary, or the asylum for the drunk, or ill – minded, because of drink, or because of war!

And yet here I am at sixty – seven, not sitting on park benches (yet – : awaiting my destiny)

Nor on the river embankments!

I confess, I’m surprised I have lived the life of one in four, and remain one of the three!

I am Minnesota born.

Early on I had found myself on the world train!

Oh, I was free and happy as a canary, you won’t believe it,

but I was not worried about anything: from the bar to the coffee house I went, then I fell sick!

Emerging from the hospital, I didn’t ease down, I asked myself:

“What do you expect to do now?”

I knew I was weak and getting old, or older, I was then forty – five!

I didn’t want to die on the streets now, but that is where I was headed, had always been headed, educated or not, and now weaken from a long illness…

But I took no pity for myself: pity I said, are for those in wheelchairs and not able to lift a finger or a leg…

I asked someone in a wheelchair once,

“Is there anything would have done different from your disease, now that you look back?”

He told me in one two words: “Keep walking!”

And so I did!

Matter of fact went to the Amazon and found a half – cure!

Yes, right from a native chief…

Had my translator with me… and took the medicine for six months, some concoction he drained from a tree!

I was too carefree, my mother used to say: too careless!

I saw the old timers in cafes, sipping coffee, and eating the leftovers, those little bits left behind on plates, as I mentioned before at Mickey’s, well, it is really everywhere,

at per near every cafĂ© or restaurant –

Was I going to be the one in four, or one of the three?

I was homeless in San Francisco, back in ’68, slept on a couch in a dojo for three months, and then on a Mexican’s porch, on an old couch, for two months, played chess with a ten – year old kid to pass my idle time away –

Got drunk at night, any – which – way!

Found an apartment no bigger than a large closet, and lived there for six months!

I walked the streets into the parks of Lima to San Francisco, saw benches jammed with sleeping occupants,

and thought, was this their destiny?

There was as many women as men, old and worn and thin, on them benches, hand on their face, elbows on their knees!

Slumped backs, no socks, hands trembling!

In St. Paul, when I was down and out, I slept in my car for three months, and then found an attic for eight more to live in.

When I was twenty and one, I did not speculate on these thoughts, as I do now –

How can one live without being reminded of the good fortune that seemed to follow a person like me:

a duck wobbling every – which – way, and somehow finding his way, as if there was an angel behind always just in time…

I have witnessed so much misfortune in the world around me, and at every corner of life, has been spared the awful and final disadvantage, of the lost soul who has no place to go!

Too weak at times, and now too old, and still at times too undernourished and too tired to work, even if I could!

And here nearing the end of my lifecycle, I have more than I need…

This is not a boast, I far from deserve it, and if I could afford it, I’d do more than I am, for those down and out folks I met…

So many in Haiti, where I helped build a medical clinic free, in ’86;

What more can I say:

I doubt anything has changed in the poverty area in over five thousand years!

And the only way it will, is simple: change the reasoning of those who can, and will not!

No: 4522/ 11 – 22 – 2014

Part Three

Property and People

I have a pound of soul, and a pound of property –

The crime against property is more serious than that of the soul!

Why? I don’t know!

Hurting your wife, beating her is more trivial an offence than sleeping at night by a vagabond, the homeless on a city park bench!

The youth that beat the old man, got scolded by the police –

And the man who stole a loaf of bread from a grocery store, got six months in the workhouse!

And I’ve been in the Minnesota Workhouse, for not paying parking tickets (you see, property before people) –

Back in my younger day, when I was twenty and no more!

Property has more value than a person…

The weak are weeded out, flung downward.

Various reason constitute this –

I worked for the VOA, when I got ill I got the boot, weeded out!

Let me explain:

Because of my illness I became slow, perhaps clumsy:

Even though a professional, all the same!

I suffered from a neurological disease, became weak, and short in stamina (back in 1996, booted in 2001)…

Thus I was allowed to sink to the bottom of the abyss, step by step the fall came – my value decreased by the day: “… let’s find a way to get rid of him,” they cried in the backroom.

Disability will bring on this challenging game.

And your friends will find ways to dismiss you, for one reason or another, to let the bosses know, you are behind them… lest you be the next on their list (isn’t that so Lance?)

It would have been a frightful fall, descend, had I not had a lot of property to back me up, a million –

As the old saying goes, one door closes as another opens!

But it hurts to know one’s friends were really no more than a pretense! Than you Ben! (how does a wife live with such?)

In another case, the lady was the secretary, and she got cancer, they all found a way to eliminate her too –

She died in her house empty of food! No thanks to you Cheryl.

I visited her up to near the day she died, she was bitter and that also, caused her to die!

No: 4523/ 11 – 22 – 2014