St. Joe’s


Men gather in the alley, light a fire in a barrel,
and talk. Some drink, some smoke, some both, some
neither. Most come close to the fire, some stay back,
muttering and listening to words only they can hear.

Some dream of another life, some only have this one.
A fight starts over a bottle, another stops it.
It begins to snow, collars are pulled up.
Many layers of ragged clothes against the cold.


A woman pushes a Walmart shopping cart laden with
clothes and treasures she has collected. Another from
the other way stops and talks, both hunched against
the wind. One offers a smoke. The first one leaves.

A woman in a doorway brandishing the skinless silver
bones of an umbrella yells, “Get Away.” She screams,
“Get Away, I’ll hurt you,” pointing the weapon at no
one in particular. Heads turn her way and back again.


The lights come on, the door opens and they shuffle in.
Tonight at St. Joe’s there will be soup, and bread.
Maybe a bed. Warmth returns waiting for the bathroom.
A man yells, “How can you think there’s a God?”

A priest says, “Shh, shh Barney, quiet down now,
God loves you, even if you don’t believe. Now give
me that bottle and go get some soup.” They stand
in line waiting. Tonight they will be warm and fed.

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