To cease to be for a timeless moment,
asleep without dreams,
world crumbling into dust.
Waking to a new creation,
all forgetful of regrets.
Even angels envy us
this greatest gift of all.
Judith Jordan, 2004
This morning I heard someone laugh
and you were here with me again
your funny, broken laughter
not a statement, but a question.
All the wonder in my world was
In the way you’d move sometimes
as if discovering momentum,
how your face transformed, illuminated,
as we argued everything and nothing
over tea and cribbage.
You are still the only man
who ever read to me
the poems of Kahlil Gibran.
You spun for me gossamer dreams,
but when I reached for them,
they blew away, ethereal.
You left me.
You escaped into
a world of voices I could never hear,
of visions I could never see.
I feared to follow,
for I did not know the way.
Judith Jordan, 2004 (rev. 2014)
He sits outside the store with his three-legged dog beside him, and a sign saying he’s “broke and hungry,” but I see a newly opened can of dog food on the ground, and the dog looks better fed than he does. He tells me he feeds the dog before he feeds himself. “He’s my best friend, had him since he was a pup,” he says.
He tells me he hitch-hiked here from Montreal because he heard the living here was easy in the summer time, but when he got here nobody was hiring pickers. “That’s because our spring was so wet this year that all of the fruit split on the tree,” I tell him.
Anyway, he’s heading home to Montreal as soon as he can get enough to buy himself a ticket on the bus. I ask him what he’s going to do with his dog. He says he’s going to take him with him. I say I don’t think they’ll let him on the bus, he says he’ll buy the dog a seat and if they still won’t let him take the dog, he’ll just have to hitch-hike the whole way back or save enough to fly, ’cause he’s not going anywhere without his dog, and could I spare some money? I don’t have any cash on me, so I tell him I’ll have to get cash-back when I pay for my groceries and catch him on my way out.
In the checkout line, I hear the woman who’s in front of me talking to the man who’s in front of her. She’s saying we all ought to sign a petition, that there ought to be universal medicare for animals just like there is for people. Did he see the homeless guy out front with the three-legged dog? She gave him fifteen dollars, but he needs twelve hundred ’cause his dog has cancer and it needs an operation or it’s going to die. Animals shouldn’t have to suffer just because their owners can’t afford their care. I mean, where do they think a homeless man is going to get that kind of money?
When I leave the store, the man and dog are gone, and two mall cops are sitting by the deli, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, and I wonder if they ran him off, and if he’s really going home, and if he doesn’t what he’s going to do when winter comes.
Last year, right after the first frost, one of our regulars at the store where I work, a homeless guy, came in, waited until he had my full attention and put several sub sandwiches into his coat sleeves and then calmly walked out, ignoring me calling after him to stop. I knew the guy’s name! It didn’t take the cops long to catch up to him, he’d just gone around the corner and sat down to wait. I guess a warm bed and free meals was worth the loss of a few month’s freedom (he was a repeat offender, so he knew he’d get a couple months at least).
I hope if the man from Montreal ever has to make the same decision, he’ll take his dog to the shelter first, so they’ll both have somewhere warm to sleep and food to eat.
Judith Jordan (2008, rev. 2014)