backpacks, bags and boxes
all in her hands.
Just the way she presented
herself we knew that she would be trouble,
her sagging pants
and manicured nails and tattoos
of weapons and profanity on her limbs.
She opened her mouth and we all stood back,
she came right in and tried to crown herself
Since I became homeless I have become an early bird. By seven o’clock I am dressed, done with personal hygiene, and through with my household chores. If I decide to cook a meal, I am done by 7:15 am. It is amazing how being an early bird has also affected my cooking. At one time, I was a very good cook, but now I prepare only simple meals. There’s no time to waste on planning and food preparation. As an early bird, I have the emergency family shelter to myself. I can sit in the kitchen or the living room and read the newspaper from the day before or perhaps a book, or even meditate, breathing slowly, breath by breath—but I am always mindful of the time. My eyes are always on the clock.
By 7:15 a.m. or thereabouts, the house arises, as adults, children, infants and cats blend. The peacefulness is broken. A baby cries, a teenage boy thuds down the creaky stairs, racing to the kitchen in search of a bagel or some juice. The cats hiss at one another, pace around a door wanting to go outside. Sometimes the sound of a TV comes from someone’s room or a resident chants a prayer or a psalm or laments about the day ahead or the mistreatment by the shelter’s director or staff. Someone speaks to a relative in another country or state, a different time zone. Cultures, customs, traditions merge; we are all connected by the same cause.
Exotic aromas pollute the inside air; the rancid, pungent smell of cooking oil grows as families prepare breakfasts, lunches and dinners for school-aged children. The peace is gone.
The luminous reflections of the rising sun as its rays danced on the walls are now a distant memory, as well as the newness of the day. Now vehicles roar past outside and people and pets arise inside.
At one time, before being homeless, I was a night owl. If I was unable to fall asleep, sometimes I would stroll in my neighborhood streets, parks or nearby fields. I’d watch the hungry animals who roamed at night, strolling and gliding through bucolic fields, isolated even inside the city. I might see a deer, a possum, a raccoon, a skunk or a brazen fox clutching his pilfered catch. Sometimes a neighborhood cat, a pet hen or a cottontail rabbit. Most of the time, the night animals were startled by my presence, but not the foxes, who would stop and stare, sometimes coming close to me in order to get a better view.