Wednesday, April 11, 2012

No rain for fallen stars

floor of the soup kitchen

There are less today than yesterday. Could mean anything, stars fade. Whole constellations disappear without our knowing.

"I sAID chocolate milk, can't you even get THAt right," the knots in his face wound tight & frayed across the top in a nap of hair.

"All i have is plain."

"Well get me tea then."

All i have is all i have, my loaves and fishes--fried chicken, salad, corn, peas. Something warm to feel full for a bit.

He is one of the strong ones, still fit enough to work. Still clinging to entitlement, seeking respect, looking for what life took.

Complaint. Complaint. But he'll take another plate.

i walk the space between heavenly bodies. It's not a void as they say. It's not avoid---they say.

An older lady, eyes adrift, chewing on a crooked jaw, raises a hand for seconds, then puts a sticker on my chest. Found in a pack of skittles left over from Valentines, expired & handed out.

You cheer me up, it says.

She says nothing, just smiles a carved pumpkin, then turns back to eat. The knotted man rants. I walk the space between stars---at a soup kitchen on Court Street.

written for Imperfect Prose, which my good friend Emily is re-launching today.

87 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

First First once more
At your shore!

Tara Miller said...

there is so much we can learn from your words today. We're all called to help the poor, not avoid them. It sounds like you were not only a blessing to those at the soup kitchen but were also blessed by them as well...

I love your heart for those that are hurting and find themselves in tough seasons of their life.

Pat Hatt said...

You got a nice sticker on you
Aww must be all nice and pretty for all to view..haha
Guess that truly is the ranters way of holding on to some respect
But pointing out the food neglect
If you had that it be something else he'd want
Just to be able to taunt

Daniel said...

I like this one, sad and sweet at the same time.

Slamdunk said...

For those who have never been to such places, it is always different than the perception. Not necessarily better or worse, just not as I though it would be.

DJan said...

Beautifully written, Brian. Took me right there, sitting in a Soup Kitchen while the stars and constellations whirl.

izzy said...

Oh this is neat Brian! I do like all the genuine stuff you put in-
" Looking for what life took" !
Thanks and thanks for the cool link-

Tabor said...

You have once again touched the truth stone and made us see.

Eva Gallant said...

"just smiles a carved pumpkin" is a great visual.

Eva Gallant said...

"just smiles a carved pumpkin" is a great visual.

chromapoesy.com said...

I spent years working with women experiencing homelessness and poverty and we included them in our program planning for art therapy. I found that the inclusion, the ability to influence program spending and delivery, and the respect shown through asking for input changed the dynamics significantly between the nonprofit staff and the constituents. The sense of empowerment was a joy to witness. I love what you've done here.

kd sullivan said...

I love the repetition...a void and avoid...wow. This is really brilliant!

Robert J. Gerryts said...

Well painted my friend, well painted.

Daydreamertoo said...

I always have to remind myself, there are so many worse off than I and, always, always: "There but for the grace of God, go I"
Love this, you 'see' it all and whatismore you have such a depth of understanding why these people are the way they are and don't set yourself up to judge them at all and that, is what sets you apart from others who may look down their noses and totally miss the human being they're so busily judging.
Heart felt write.

Jen Chandler said...

Not a void...not avoid.

Powerful :D

Cheers,
Jen

Claudia said...

nice..getting a glimpse into your work at the soup kitchen...love the galactic touches, somehow this can be whole solar systems of their own and it's not always easy to find a way into their heart..but looks like you did..the part with the sticker made me smile..

Magpie said...

Lovely words, Brian. I'm glad that someone saw your purpose.

kaykuala said...

Sometimes we forget how fortunate our situation is! Others are far worst off! Great verse, Brian!

Hank

Anne said...

I really like the way you've made the analogy between these people and stars. How they wink out of existence without our knowing and walking the distance between them. Lovely Brian.

Myrna R. said...

Nice Brian to walk among heavenly bodies and recognizing them. Lovely write.

Glad Imperfect Prose is back.

Shaunie @ Up the Sunbeam said...

You always say so much in such an economy of words! Those people come to life and what's behind their eyes is respectfully revealed in your writing. They are blessed to be served by you, both in the soup kitchen and here in your poetic offering. Thank you, Brian!

Sue said...

I think some of the most valuable teaching moments I've spent with youth from my church took place in homeless shelters. Definitely NOT to be avoided.

=)

Lady Nyo said...

Brian, it takes a special soul...and you are...to do this. You didn't sugar coat this...there are people who are so full of entitlement, could work, could support themselves, but the chip on their shoulders weigh them down...though they don't know this...they blame the world and never themselves..it's always someone/race/religion, etc...else.

The pumpkin-smiling woman are the people that deserve so much more in life.

Sorry, but it gets old, darling. There are people that waste the energy of others, and there are people that give back.

Excellent poem...excellent observations. Powerful piece of work.

Lady Nyo

ayala said...

I love this..your heart shines..your work so important and in return you are richer for it all.

Daydreamertoo said...

RYN: He only just 'woke' into his new consciousness. He's still learning the ropes and he hasn't met any people yet because, nothing is real anymore.
It all came about from Chloe telling me a little bit this morning about a game she plays where a man wakes up in the future and, everything seems the same but it isn't. Then he meets a woman who tells him he doesn't exist. All that exists of life as he knew it, is his memory.
I thought it was a kind of neat thing to try and write something poetic for. Anyway, that's why no people because, 'It's life Jim, but, not as he knew it.' :)

Jenny Woolf said...

I was wondering where it could be and but I hadn't guessed by the time you told us. Great, as usual.

starla said...

I like this!
grace coming in a sticker!

Mary said...

So much hopelessness as well as hope at the soup kitchen. As well as so much prose and/or poetry. Another meaningful write, Brian.

Laurie Kolp said...

This is so well-written. You have captured the moment, brought to life the experience.

Gotta love the entitlement, but the candy lady made it all worth it.

flaubert said...

Brian, I have never been to a soup kitchen, but I believe you have captured the scene perfectly here. Nice one my friend.

Pamela

^.^ said...

Thank god for soup (kitchens) :)

suzy said...

This line is very powerful...

"He is one of the strong ones, still fit enough to work. Still clinging to entitlement, seeking respect, looking for what life took."

The last lines are incredibly strong. I love how you "walk the space between the stars."

I work at a soup kitchen too and know the complaints well :)
I always think it's okay though because if they were paying they would have every right to ask for food to be cooked to their specifications. Maybe the soup kitchen is the only place where they get to feel like a human being.

Wonderful poem Brian.

Adura Ojo said...

The 'You cheer me up' sticker just about sums it up, Brian.

It feels good to be appreciated in a place where people can so easily get swallowed up by their own woes...but they don't and they still have... appreciation...And that's what gets me in situations like that.

suzy said...

..."there are people who are so full of entitlement, could work, could support themselves, but the chip on their shoulders weigh them down"

No one ever dreams to be homeless, or bear the humility of being in need, or know the desperation that comes from grinding poverty.
Self destruction is not usually a life goal or a choice but the tragic consequence of hopelessness.

"Sorry, but it gets old, darling. There are people that waste the energy of others, and there are people that give back"

Having the surplus to "give back" is a gift one should be grateful for don't you think?

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"You cheer me up, it says.
She says nothing, just smiles a carved pumpkin, then turns back to eat. The knotted man rants. I walk the space between stars---at a soup kitchen on Court Street..."


[One day "we all" may be in this predicament...even those who have worked hard all their lives...Who Knows? What the future will hold?!]

Hi! Brian...
I want to [think] that I'm a compassion person too!
Therefore, your beautiful, but strong poetic words are very...bitter-sweet today.
Thank-you, for sharing and caring...too!

[postcript:So many Of your commenter have summed up my feelings too!]
deedee :-(

Geraldine said...

helping those in need is always a gift back to us in return.

a lovely post Brian, touching...

Sub-Radar-Mike said...

Really interesting narrative on charity and volunteering, nicely done Mr. Miller.

PattiKen said...

Well said. In a sea of "gimme," it's nice when kindness is acknwledged rather than seen as not enough. Even if it did come from a package of Skittles.

Luke Prater said...

I really do dig your prose... have you been writing porse longer than poetry? The latter is also excellent, but a lot of the time we never see prose from our poet buddies. I haven't written any proper prose for a long time (bar political blogging beneath a statement piece). Great write, man

hedgewitch said...

This is immediate, a bit terrifying in its exposure of the inside guts of what makes us, us--and also, exhilarating, in the give and take that turns void if not avoided, to the fuel that the stars run on. Loved it brian--you're getting waaay too good-gonna have to start beating you with that bar you keep raising.

Tina said...

A slice of life in a soup kitchen. The subject of my interview for the book was the director of The Center for People with Disabilities. He said the best thing we can do is sit down with a homeless person and get to know them. Don't give them money, buy them lunch. You seem to be doing it right. You did get the sticker to prove it, after all.
Tina @ Life is Good
Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I'm glad you really notice people, not just pass by without a second glance.

Beth said...

You are doing a great work, Brian. Don't ever second-guess that! Thanks for reminding us of what is most important and the need to persevere.

SueAnn Lommler said...

I walk between stars with a paint brush and a dream.
Hugs
SueAnn

rosaria williams said...

Hugs!
Got to see past the human pain and into the firmament of hope.

Nikki Rules said...

Imperfect prose. Perfect writing for imperfection. And lucky you on the sticker!

Donna Schultz said...

For every knotted man, God will bring a carved pumpkin smile and a sticker, to confirm that you are right there in the center of His perfect will.

Brian Miller said...

i know...it was a big pink sticker and i wore it the rest of the day...it was fun to watch it catch peoples eye...and maybe wonder why i had a valentines sticker on...haha

HopeUnbroken said...

love how you pen. the twists, the turns. . .the unexpected. and i'm always right there. your gift is unique.
steph

Grace said...

I can see the fading stars and heavenly bodies. You have a good heart Brian. Thanks for giving us a cheer ~

janae said...

"looking for what life took away" - love that this phrase is multi-faceted, leaves me swimming towards and away from so many beliefs and expectations.

Cindy said...

Just - powerful - amazing words...thanks for the visit over at my place...

Fred Rutherford said...

Brian, I really like the way you ended this piece, but it's the "strong guy" that I get stuck on here. I've known plenty of people like this man in many ways, probably not as many as someone in your line of work or could be found in such a place, but you painted this "character" so perfectly. I know from experiencing this type of interaction first hand. For me anyhow, you just want to blame them for being the way they are, but then a part of you remembers the many reasons mood and yes, personality can be so drastically altered and understanding takes place. I'll have to reread this again. But it really does seem like you characterized this gentlemen and all those like him as well as it could have been done. Great write, and the ending is very good as well, just one of those times the mind gets stuck on something and next thing you know, you're filling up about two comment pages. Thanks

lifeisaroadtrip said...

This is very thoughtful, and I love the play on "a void" and "avoid".

KB said...

I guess a thank you rather than a complaint would have been nice from the man but at least you got a nice sticker to wear.

Tom said...

nice phrasing throughout...paints a picture (not pretty, but not all are)

turtlememoir said...

I like the play on words (like, a void vs avoid) and seeing that people in a soup kitchen are stars - that I love. and they are

Alecia said...

Awesome. I've worked a soup kitchen and have taken my kids to homeless shelters to open their eyes to those less fortunate.i believe its our job as Christians to reach out to those that are hurting and in need of help.I would hope if I were ever in that position there would be some kind soul that would take the time tocheer me up:)

Betsy said...

loved this...one of my new faves. :) The sticker is the best...and her smile.

Nikki said...

This one actually made me look up.
Loved it, brian.

Sheila said...

She smiles a pumpkin. Love it.

Mama Zen said...

"just smiles a carved pumpkin"

Wow.

Lolamouse said...

I felt like I was right there with you in that soup kitchen. I do think you must have little Brian clones running around to do all of the wonderful things you do!

Jannie Funster said...

This is REALLY quite something, Bri.

Her jack-o-lantern smile.

I didn't know they put stickers in Skittles. I've been missing out in mine.

And how you wove the stars and stuff in is really magnificent.

xo

emily wierenga said...

i walk the space between heavenly bodies. It's not a void as they say. It's not avoid---they say.


brilliant. (i seem to say that a lot here, brian :))... and the carved pumpkin? i can see it so vividly. what a perfect smile. i love the way you walk amongst the stars, Brian. you're being the kingdom come.

Ostriches Look Funny said...

wow. I can't believe how awesome this is.

Seriously. This has given me a lot to think about and I really am amazed at your writing.

lori said...

I love your comparisons here. As always I'm deeply touched by your work. Been quietly reading still :) Wonderful to hear Imperfect Prose is back.

P.s. My husband was hired today for full-time work. Thank you so much for your prayers. It's been a long and winding road, but it just might straighten out for a stretch.

Fireblossom said...

A sticker is a good thing. And gratitude is the aristocrat of emotions, no matter the setting, yeah?

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

:) Space between the stars...love that

Pauline said...

you cheer me up ;)

Dave King said...

This is splendid stuff. I could relate to every word. Your characters reminded me of others - no doubt very different - that I have known. I tall came across as real and vital.

Goofball said...

I'm sure you cheer up a lot of people ...and you keep teaching us to pay attention to those we usually overlook.

the walking man said...

Your bastardization of language is probably the best I have ever come across Brian...never lose that skill. God love you man and me too!

Lorraine said...

Excellent as always, but I admit I'd be a mite offended if I couldn't a coffee, I couldn't survive ;)

manicddaily said...

Well done. k.

Wolfsrosebud said...

you have such a heart for the elderly... I'm inside your head with this piece and feel everything... nice job Brian...

momto8 said...

it is easy to love those who love us back. we are are called to do more than what is easy.

Josh Hoyt said...

Nice lesson. Thanks for getting the old brain thinking.

Natasha Head said...

Life is lived, good or badly, between the edges we define. Space is only measurable with start and end points...and life can only be lived the same way. In the in between...and sometimes, that means bare cupboards, pumpkin smiles, and complaints. The world needs more yous...and not just for your writing!

adan said...

wow!

"i walk the space between heavenly bodies. It's not a void as they say. It's not avoid---they say."

wonderful snippet, thanks brian ;-)

Stranger said...

I LOVE this. It's powerful and captures so much about people, all people not just those in a soup kitchen, and it's written with honesty, and, despite the truth of some people's character, it has heart.

Cheryl said...

Poignant and way too familiar.

Anonymous said...

"He is one of the strong ones, still fit enough to work. Still clinging to entitlement, seeking respect, looking for what life took."

That makes sense; how else are you going to attack life?

I love this: "I sAID chocolate milk" ... The way you cap ID, as if to say that no matter what our circumstances, we want to be somebody, ourselves ... to have identity. Brilliant move, B.

"You cheer me up, it says." ... Oh my gosh, the irony.

"She says nothing, just smiles a carved pumpkin" ... Great line!

Shawna
rosemarymint.wordpress.com

Nacole said...

love the rhythym and how you made me think...you weave the words all around me, not saying it plainly, but giving me bits so i have to guess what you are really saying--i like that. LOVE that you found yourself in a soup kitchen. blessings and thanks so much for visiting my place and your words there.

Apryl Gonzales Sweet said...

Poetic even in your prose, love this: i walk the space between heavenly bodies. It's not a void as they say. It's not avoid---they say.

Thank you for your ministering heart and spirit, keep writing my friend :)

sharmishtha said...

wonderful

Syd said...

Brian, I used to serve food and stay at the local shelter overnight to do the chaperone shift. I ran across some who were masking their pain with arrogance. I thought them ingrates at the time but realize that they were reacting to the whole situation.