I wrote this poem for a man I met in Far Rockaway. He and his family have lived in the area for forty years. He feels tremendous guilt for not evacuating his wife and kids who are now at a shelter, while he stays in the house without water, without electricity. He provides and gives to others, but will not let anyone help him. He has a huge heart and a soft soul, but they are shielded behind his pain. This is a first draft that I wrote on the train ride home.
Your features are a palette of dirt
Layers of days smudged across your skin
Settling in to the furrow of your brow
Where it all rests
Mixing with the lines of worry and fear.
Your spirit is as damp as your house
A heart flooded heavy with emotions you won't express
There's a cold that seeps in to your bones
Slipping in beside you, to nuzzle your neck at night
It's in your eyes, this anger, circling your pupils.
Your guilt is weighing you down
And you slowly sink, holding tight to the shovel, to the mop, to the broom
And even more tightly to the pain of what you think is yours to carry
With all that grief slung about your shoulders, filling your pockets, cementing your boots
Who's holding you Joe?
Who can get that close?