Thursday, August 03, 2006

it begins with a name

It begins with a name
the first (Rick) is a step
the last (Bennet) is a leap.
Did he go by Ricky as a boy?
The Bennet family, the Bennet children…
[uh oh, here we go]
A brick falls when we hear him laugh,
an entire wall when he admits that he might cry.
He has a daughter (age 11)
Last week he tried to buy her a skateboard.
It got stolen.
[No turning back now]
He drinks because of a broken heart.

Another crashing sound
comes behind the stories of his father:
how they owned a Harley museum,
how he died of cancer.
His mother went not long after.
[we’re goners for sure]
It gets old, he says, living on the streets,
curling up in alleys for a decade’s worth of cold nights.
[suddenly I am imagining the chill of the concrete]
He gives advice on panhandling,
shows us a card trick, a coin trick, a smile.

It’s a risky business, letting it begin with a name;
a step, a leap, a crumbling wall.
Two days later, when I walk past him asleep in the sidewalk,
and I pause to watch them carry him away to detox (again),
I find that I have given up the right to say
“Look at that homeless man sleeping there.”
Yes, look at that unknown, unclean, inhuman
crumpled man in front of the Starbucks
where I study for my middle-class master’s degree.
I gave up that right
when I asked for his name.

Now all I can see is Rick Bennet,
who lost his father
and misses his daughter
and is curled up drunk on the sidewalk
because of a broken heart.

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