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Contemporary Impressions

Strike me in the face

In a homeless shelter
Men eat bacon and eggs
With forks and knives
And nothing
But their hearts.

Volunteers bring theirs too
Lies and hypocrisy stripped away
For this day they know
What it is to be
Without a home

See, a homeless man is drunk on wine
Causing a disturbance
Chicken bones are flung across the table.

A volunteer leans in
The man sways, and says:
'Sorry for my behaviour'
And without words asks to take the other's arm
And without words I agree
And we touch, somewhere about the elbow
And something flows
Like electricity.

Was it love or hope or some such thing
That travelled thus from me to him?
Like water from a high place to a low
I do not know
Though feel it go.

'Uncouth cheek!', at first I think
'This man. He takes what is surely mine!'

Yet though he takes, it depletes me not
And still he waits
As if at a petrol station
Till my arm is loosed
Whereupon says the drunk (with powers of telepathy):

I am on my way again
With eggs and bacon, freshly made
For love, we are told, always serves another.

And later, he
The self-same man
With reeling spirits
Drunk on misery
Accosts a girl with conversation
Who battles for a while
With her noble smile.

She could flee, but does not
Another joins - her gentle kin
They work in shifts - a subtle team
Reassuring him.

Sitting knit now
One right, one left.
A noble sorority
Combine their powers
Battling valiantly
For sacrifice is the face of love
It humbles me.

The battle lost he makes his groping pass
To squeeze a breast
His eyes despairing wide
Something has come loose inside.

I drop the eggs and take his arm
'Remember me?', I say
With powers of telepathy
Emotions rear, his fist is raised
A viper sprung, a palm a blade
Forked tongues sense the air - a trigger hair
Frustration burning in his eyes
Just that
Not anger
But pure despair
Solitude (what else?)
Burning in his eyes
My sorrow blazes back
For him and all battling humanity.

A prize fighter once said:
'I am the greatest.
I would have been the greatest whatever I did.'

What the prophet meant, I think
Is that Muhammad would have placed his heart
In any thing he might have done
For putting in your heart is to be the greatest
And greatness is putting in your heart.

In a homeless shelter
Men eat bacon and eggs
With knives and forks
And nothing
But their hearts.

Volunteers add theirs too
Lies and hypocrisy stripped away
For life is like a mirror
And who likes what they see?

One day we will know
What it is to be
Without a home.

So strike me in the face, and mean it!
By God's Grace go I
But do not ever tell me
A self-serving lie.

Ch 1 Asylum
Ch 2 Shabby Man
Ch 3 Strike Me In The Face
Ch 4 Fusion Fete
Ch 5 Miseries
Modus Tollens