We talked, Ben and I…
his words organized onto paper:
DON’T DRAW A CIRCLE THAT SHUTS US OUT
“We are the homeless working poor.”
Ben 57, and son Steve 22,
limping along at Portland’s Dignity Village
very near broke,
struggles just beginning.
“Not putting my resume out.
Should have twelve moves back.
The path has been working;
every move has stomped out old fires:
long overdue vehicle maintenance,
one-fifty left on the fine,
X-amount on the Honda.
All old fires stamped out..
Wait…get my partial denture repaired, then I’m done.
wait…I’ll want at least 1 K for emergencies – toothache or whatever;
you don’t get something for nothing.
“I caught my first break –
a ski resort parking lot attendant
but forty-hour weeks weren’t happening.
Snake bit by bad weather and overstaffed
the only money I took off the mountain was my last paycheck.
It got me through the winter
which was what I was playing for.
“Never play cards with a guy named Doc
or eat at a place called Mom’s.
Believe in yourself
or no one else will and
the less you have
the more you give,
sounds absurd, but it’s the logic of love.
“Back at the Village.
I call my temp agency.
“I’m begging, please, one day’s work.”
And darn if he doesn’t give me one for the very next day.
“It was one day
but when I call back the next day
he sets me up with a full week at a berry farm.
I tell him he is my new best friend.
“’Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.’
“’He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.’
“’The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.’
Longfellow, I think.
“’Beer is proof that God wants men to be happy.’
yeah, Ben Franklin
“Not having gas money to drive the miles for five days
I’m sleeping in my car.
…and at the end of the week my guy sets me up for another week.
Still no gas money so I sleep in the car again.
And then…a full paycheck.
I vow never again to sleep in the damn car!
“That was then.
This is now.
“Being a regular for six months with the company
I get paid for holidays.
It’s a reasonable facsimile of stability.
Another six months and alternatives are within the realm of possibilities.
NOW is the time to start considering them.
…or maybe I want to stick around,
research windmills and generators –
get a little auxiliary power working at the Village.
“They got third world countries where a place like this would be the nation’s capital.”