Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Far Rockaway Joe


I wrote this poem last year for a man I met in Far Rockaway on my first post-hurricane visit.

Ducking behind a corner to shield my tears and shock from the residents as they dumped their ravaged belongings on the sidewalks, Joe took my arm and guided me in to his store, where he was giving away pizza and coffee that had been donated to him. Embarrassed to be seen in my state of grief because I was a visitor and not a victim of the hurricane, I stumbled over my words while wiping the sorrow from my eyes and desperately trying to compose myself. 

I will never, ever forget the kindness in this man's eyes and his soothing words as he openly shared his story with me. "It is good that you are here. We think that we have been forgotten. When you come here to see what has happened, you can share this with others, so they will know that we suffer. Don't forget us." And I haven't.  Today, I stopped by the store to see Joe, only to find out that he passed away last month...  In honor of Joe, here is this poem again.

For Joe

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 grief, 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 alone
With all that rawness slung about your shoulders, filling your pockets, cementing your boots
Who's holding you Joe?
Who's holding you?

No comments: