The Almost Ninety Diaries

Poems, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“Thanks in old age . . . for health, the midday sun,
The impalpable air – for life, mere life.”

Walt Whitman


Before the auction,
the realtor
puts out a sign
and places flowers on the windowsill.
Someone has mowed the lawn
shut off the water and electricity
—still the swing in the back yard
moves as though someone is in it,
a doll is found kicked to the back of a closet
a jar of jelly in the fridge
letters in the attic
a rubber boot in the mudroom
a dog bed in the basement
daffodils straggle in the grass
—a half-finished patio
the stack of bricks nearby.
The family that only yesterday
wore the boot
played with the doll
called the dog
had jobs
led prudent lives
rent a van
slip away like felons
in the dead of night
Once debtors were thrown into prison
Sometimes for life—
Now families live in grungy motels
overflowing shelters
sleep in their cars
on the street
under bridges
or in flimsy tent cities

In the film, Salt of the Earth
When the sheriff came and his men flung the family belongings to the sidewalk
Neighbors returned everything back inside and sent the sheriff’s men packing

Foreclosure : 2

In Florida
Or Vegas
In the walled and gated development—
Acres of abandoned houses
Empty rooms—
Doors and windows boarded
And atop the wall
Two bobcats
Stretch lazily in the sun
And open their barbed mouths
To yawn—


Somebody lost their job
Someone else had a heart attack
And needs an implant
Somebody broke their leg
And Someone else made a bad investment and didn’t get a bailout
Somebody’s pension is gone
And now there’s nothing left
Someone else’s mom has Alzheimer’s and had to go to a nursing home
Somebody’s kid has leukemia and needs costly meds

So Somebody went bankrupt
and Someone’s house is in foreclosure
Now Somebody’s unemployment benefits are running out
And who knows where all the Somebody’s will sleep tonight

Two Homeless Guys

I was
At Greenlake Park sitting on my favorite bench—
Staring at the island opposite.
And water flowing by,
He came to sit next to me,
Clean but shabby,
Asked if I minded.
When I said no he called to his mate
Who shambled over and sat down.
There’s no reason, said my friend sternly
Not to be clean, though homeless,
There’s always a shelter and a bed,
The “Y’” to get a shower and a shave,
A foodbank for a meal
And a place to wash your clothes.
No, no reason not to be clean and healthy.
His pal, however was pretty down and dirty—
Miserable and smelly, head in his hands,
It’s the drink, said my friend,
Though I knew it was more complicated than that.
—And he patted the inconsolable tenderly on the shoulder.

Back to the Future

Back to let them eat cake
to Oliver wants more
to orphans, hair shorn, lined up, plates out.
to the Dickensian streets
to children lining the tracks, picking up bits of coal,
swallowing down road kill rejected by dogs
—while Oliver slaves in the blacking factory
and Tiny Tim does die for lack of a doctor’s care.
Back to Scrooge, who never went away,
to child labor in the coal mines or coal factories
out of Blake’s dark satanic mills.
Back to typhoid and tuberculosis.
When all the owners care about is cost, people die.

Out of the mist, the fog and soot –
comes the pauper, the chimney sweep, the starveling –
with hungry eyes and dirty fingers,
pressed against the glass of the restaurant window
where you are eating your Christmas turkey.

Back to the return of charity,
of the sanctimonious charity of the wealthy—
like the dimes Henry Ford scattered to the crowd.
And who but Scrooge denies heat to the freezing,
aid to the famished and rest to the tired?

Back to that heartless century, in a soulless city.
To the workhouse with its iron gates,
To smokestacks against the sky
Back to those dank, back alleys where we have taken a journey
to a time and place that are becoming more familiar to us each day
for soon the brown air of London will be ours too.

*“Foreclosure 1” appeared first in The Pemmican Press.