When you see a man who is down on his luck,
Chicago or bust, yeah, Buffalo by truck,
yeah, lend him a hand. Lend him a hand.
Who hath entertained angels unaware
in such an endeavor, friend? Shaking dice
in the parking lot outside the Dolly Madison
factory in Peoria. Melting pot and the smoke
blows away the whole building disappeared to Mexico.
The oldest trick in the world, the market.
The boss man shook your hand, thanks, great
thanks, yet he had pinched hold of your flesh
at the wrist and stretched you for 20 years of life,
skinned like some sausage casing made in Des Moines
or Salina, Kansas or Albert Lea, Minnesota between
the lakes using two picnic tables and slaughtering hogs
for a $3 bounty each. Wrapped in wax paper, to go.
Like a rat stealing a tarp down a hole the size
of a coffee can, the core of this world keeps swallowing
and you still don’t know who’s stealing your jacket--
whose jacket off whose back? Suddenly it’s cold!
Like a watch for collateral in a card game it’s gone.
So once Naked as you came into this world, now
on the road naked like a gypsy in all, and attitude.
You still have your attitude. Don’t ever forget your childhood
nor the butcher nor the tailor’s wife nor the copper butter pot.
Mi olla. Moj pot. La meva olla. They all say “My pot.”
Ya damn right it is. It might be all you have left.
The sheep are at the fence again. You may punch
them in the head all you want—they will nod and bleat you silly.
You will only break your hand as you are man, and they are rams.
Love would be better than punching sheep rams, or walls. Allow
for smiles, children, prayers simple or complex, but better simple.
Allow for simple. Your mother’s hugs and duties now gone.
There is a time for such embracing and another
to refrain from embracing. Listen, I am very tired
of hearing the rich man, preaching from fat lands,
about wealth that is his. I believe it a lie and dishonors
the true Maker of life. Who gave you breath?
Who poured your blood and water into the river capillaries
and who fastened those stars in firmament? You’ll never count
any or all. Have you seen anyone die horribly for no good reason?
On a cross or in the name of anything worth fighting for? Mock that.
I’m sick of the lies and I’m sick of the wars.
They are won on the backs and blood of the poor.
The workers are like prairie dogs with their own wild language.
Someone is coming. They vibrate a certain call for coyotes.
Another warble in the throat for a human. Can’t you hear
the difference in the wild voice? The whole world cries out
like 300,000 Baikal teal all in one flock, trying to cross the Himalayas,
staying in close contact by calling to one another in flight.
Everything in migration: hominoids from the Danakil Depression,
3 million caribou to the boreal forest and the Taiga, the calves
being born, learning to stand, and moving on the same day.
On the other end of the planet lost elephants find water
at last in the great swamps of the Okavango Delta in Africa.
You never heard Leontyne Price in Porgy and Bess did you?
Me either-- until yesterday. A black girl from Laurel, Mississippi
an opera star? It seems impossible she made it that far
yet her voice more priceless than pearls, her extraordinary
common sense and love for beauty. What’s in a name?
Eternities. Begun with a young mother singing in the backyard.
Do you remember singing while working? I remember cursing,
but if I try the song is still there. Oh Leontyne. Tune out the noise.
When you see a child, she is fighting this world,
a circle of raccoon girls at middle school who sometimes
act so cruel. Well, listen to her, yes, listen to her.
You can take my money but you cannot have my proxy--
not if I hold tight to what is right inside my heart, yes?
My spirit still flies free within me. Yes. This gift.
Even the widow tearing at the hem of his garment. Please.
How can we truly seek? How did we end up at computers
or on our ass? I’m talking to myself, but do you hear me, friends.
When you see a woman down on her luck, lend her a hand.
We work together like laborers in the field for the same denari.
For holy dirt, bamboo truth, a sacred ant or flood land.
Come on. Lend them a hand. Yes? Lend us a hand.
In my house I have two young boys, Yaniv and Zamir,
visiting from Bucharest. They speak in three
languages, all wild and guttural. These boys demand
we plant tomatoes and summer squash right now.
There’s a garden outside waiting. It’s late May
and I’ll be damned if I won’t try to teach them.
Mike Lohre is the author of Bullheads and many other poems and short stories.