Saturday, January 1, 2022

Raymond Street II


By Harmony Kieding 


In 1999 I wrote a long poem called Raymond Street (as in Raymond St. Pasadena, California)... based on my experience of being homeless...
Here it is, copy pasted in all its gory, er, glory...

Raymond Street II

(-Harmony Kieding- 1999-)

The dogs are howling
Early in the morning,
on the streets of Pasadena.
I can hear them
As I go by on foot,
past the doors of the Humane Society.
I can hear them howl.
They are imprisoned on the Inside;
I am imprisoned on the Outside.
Their nomad state has been declared a crime.
So has mine.
Rounded up
without their consent-
and castrated, and
doomed to die
their existence is illegal
they are
doing their time on death row
unless claimed by another species.
The "human" species.

About this "human" species.
This morning most of them have put on the
Masks of Pretending to Be Human.
You either know those masks.
Or you will come to know them.
Or you are wearing one yourself.
The Pretend Mask of Concerned Friend,
Relative, or Citizen.
The Mask of the Religious Person.
And the Mask of the Spiritual New age Person.

Much time will be spent on maintaining those masks.
Ah, yes, cultivating the appearance of those masks.
Many Pretend Friend Hours will be spent
joking over coffee,
watching a movie together, and running around.
The Pretend Family Member will say this and that.
The "Concerned Citizen" Mask will approach
on one pretext or another.

But the One thing you must know about Masks:
If Ever True Need arises,
the Mask Will Come OFF,
Baring the Thing Within.
And I tell you, this Thing is not human.
only then,
When true need arises
will the Pretend Friend or the Pretend
Family Member say
on a raining, close to freezing night...
"There is no room for you.
No, not even on the living room floor.
No, sorry, I really can't have you.
It would be too much for Roger."
And then, you see...
they close the door and it is
clear that they do not care if you live
or die. All along, it has been a war;
And there you stand, weaponless, at the door.
They Shut the Door.
On the other side of it,
In their eyes
you have suddenly stopped being human.
You have turned into a label.
Yes, that label.
A Homeless Person.

They close the Door
And it is terribly freeing.
Why have coffee with them ever again-
When they do not care if you live or die.
When true need arises
only then,
will the Pretend-to-be-Spiritual Mask say
"There is no room for you inside my warm house,
Not even in my extra car that I save for
weekend trips to the mountains.
but I will meditate for you,
and I will donate
once a year
to some Homeless Charity".

It is actually very simple to see the point at which
Spirit meets Matter.
It is as clear
as taking ten blankets
to a homeless family
out in the cold..on the streets.
It is as simple as sharing
a meal with them.
Not given because one feels superior...
because one is not superior.
not given out of "charity"
because that charity is to Self-
but because there is no other choice
for one who would be

The Transit of Neptune through Capricorn
has seen the dissolving of compassion.
Somehow, unobserved, the poor turned first into losers,
And then, somehow, into Criminals.
The meek were disinherited by their very Birth.
Shall the chique inherit the Earth?
So here am I, out in the cold,
With only the icy ghosts of
affluent times to
ostracize me now.
"Miss Persona Non Grata", they mock with a chilling smile.

Each block I walk
Down Raymond Street
I recall trips to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum,
Or the little cafeteria in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,
after taking in the Egyptian Section
you could get a small
olive-and-pimento sandwich
with a cup of Earl Grey before you take the mta
Home, in that long ago life
where there WAS a home
. In that life,
there were art classes and admiring the lace
on the cuffs
in Copley's portraits.
There was lemonade on summer lawns
and sailing on the sea
And evenings at the Boston Symphony Orchestra,
and Welsh Rarebit served at the Harvard Musical Society.
An original Rembrandt
relegated to someone's bathroom underneath the stairs
and come across by accident at some soiree.
These were the force fields of beauty.

I place these memories where they belong
next to those of a Graveyard,
glimpsed fleetingly one day through the window of a car.
A Graveyard of small, humble headstones...
All except for one, immense gravestone
shouting "Look at me!!
Am I not deader than all these other dead?
Aren't you impressed with how very dead I am?
And am I not more affluently dead than all the rest?"

Back from the abstract-
Back to the concrete of Raymond Street
In a department store window,
a mannequin who cannot benefit from them
flaunts a warm winter coat and gloves,
taunting me through the glass,
and sneering at my bare hands.
And How very well that glass
In the window
co-ordinates with
the glass between us and Society.
And the shattering glass
of the crystal cathedrals...
imploding from lack of compassion
descending from lack of Love
Illusions of social classes
that shatter like the glass.

To You who are so afraid of losing your power..
I say You never had it to begin with.
You hold on to an illusion of Power.
To You who have never discovered your Power
I say you have had it all along.
It comes from the Source of All Things
And it is endless.

Further Down Raymond Street,
Not too far from where the Parade of Roses
builds their floats...
we pause at the outdoor workshop
That makes children's playhouses
For the rich.
And future children will play in them
and Pretend to Be pirates and princesses
Peter Pan and kings...
Each playhouse has a roof
and partial shelter from the elements.
But even on a freezing night,
we are not allowed to use them.
Though it's true- they could fit a human being or two..
And give shelter from the wind.
The playhouses are all behind a
heavily-barred gate.
And your carefully cultured children you will exclude
and pretend never to have known
if ever they come to a time of need.

Gandhi, you once said that you thought Western Civilization
Would be a good idea.
And I tell you..
All of Civilization Itself is not such a good idea.
All our countries have taken off their Masks
The Mad Cows no longer are jumping over the moon-
They are singing us a lullaby
And the very Earth itself is Dying.

And in each of our countries,
all of our country men and women do not
want us in their neighborhood.
You want us here
or there
Invisible. Or dead.

Then you wonder why it is so hard for us to
fit back into a society
that makes it so clear we are unwanted
In the first place.
how the homeless shelter
in Pasadena
on Raymond Street
is located so close to the
Humane Society. For Animals.
"Human kind cannot bear very much Reality."

I am almost at the end of Raymond Street, and so I
Sing myself a little song. It goes like this:
"Here Am I.
Between the Earth and the Sky,
Being Human.
I live my Life as it goes By,
And I am Human.
And the Color of My Skin
Does not show the Soul Within.
The Only Race I've ever been
is the Human."
We shall speak with tongues of Fire until you Hear.
We shall touch you and We shall draw near
And all these dogs doing time on death row-
who are these dogs on death row now

©12/11/2021 Harmony Kielding

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