I care a lot about the homeless. Recently, I’ve been trying to help a friend of mine, named Andre, find his way back from the streets and from drugs. A lot has happened, and a lot happened and was happening when I wrote the poem you’ll find below, called The Pain Eater.
I was helping him; I was trying to help him. I was trying to help him find his way. I was trying to help, but the situation became compromised, where I wasn’t able to trust him anymore, and give him my complete trust. It was a hurtful event, but that is unimportant.
What is important is that the night came where I couldn’t help him, but I told him I was going to stay with him on the streets, sleep on the streets by him. He was suicidal because he had betrayed my trust; he felt shame; he felt sadness; he felt like he didn’t deserve my time. And I disagreed with all of that. Because I saw him as my friend.
Sure, he betrayed my trust, I wasn’t going to give up on him. Suffice to say, to make a long story short, I was with him behind a Lowes, where he was sleeping, and I stayed with him until three o clock at night.
And I wrote a poem as he slept.
I write pocket words, or pocket poems, when I’m in the mood for writing, but something short. My project Pocket Words is a celebration of minimalist art work (whether poetry or visual art), but it also features poems that avoid having an “I” speaker and are short, terse poems, where the logic and the language doesn’t always connect (intentionally). I write a lot during the day, but sometimes at the end of the day, when it’s around ten or eleven at night, I know I can’t write a ton, so I write a pocket poem: it fulfills my need to write without writing too much. I’ve noticed that when I’m stressed at night (I have a hard time sleeping, and I get manic at night, and need to write sometimes to calm my racing thoughts), I write pocket words. It just helps me. I’ll write the poem as a text message on my phone. And sometimes I’ll write a pocket poem when I get myself into some kind of trouble.
This was certainly an instance of trouble. I’d been thinking of the concept of the sin eater, as I was thinking of it in the context of The Blacklist (a good television show), and I was thinking, I feel like I am a pain eater. I eat other’s pain, by not being able to take away their suffering.
Watching Andre sleep on the ground on cardboard made me sad, especially because I knew I couldn’t help him. I had done my best and I had nothing left to give. So, I cried. I cried for a while, feeling helpless, and cried as I wrote this pocket poem. I had delusions that I was taking away his pain, that I was talking to his beloved father, who had killed himself. I had delusions that I was in touch with his spirit, in touch with his past, and that I could eat his pain. And even though I knew it was a delusion … it didn’t stop me from hoping.
Anyway: enjoy the poem.
This is why I care …
C.S. Lewis equates not loving others to damnation. But he also says that loving others opens us up to pain, makes us vulnerable. We could be safe, sure, in damnation, but I choose vulnerability. I don’t know if I can help Andre, but I am doing my best, and I am not giving up, even if that makes me vulnerable …
This is why I care …
The Pain Eater
bite sized choked
the tears are blood alone
on the tongue
the rain maker
the pain taker …