At the mission drop-in center
I stand and stare half-asleep
into half-light as clients
shuffle-in, leave garbage bags
as place holders before lining-up
for coffee and sugar.
They smell like the street—
mouthwash, liquor, and sweat.
Addicted and tired with problems
beyond us. But we try,
we do what little we can--
which for me includes
handing out socks, coffee,
and the occasional bag-lunch.
After they sit-down again
a chorus of heavy-breathing
and snores hum under
I continue half-sleep prayers.
A rush of sweatpants
rages past—“I’ll fucken kill ‘em,
I don’t even fucking care.”
I ask a stupid question—“Hey man,
how’s it going?” And he answers
with a parade of expletives. His keys.
He left his house keys by the computer.
And they weren’t even his keys.
And now they’re gone.
Receipts erupt from fleece pockets,
no keys. The phone area is hastily reorganized,
no keys. Steps retraced, condescending questions asked
“Are you sure. . .” All we could do is done. And still
He looks at us like we have a secret
room in the back where we keep spare keys
for everyone who comes into the drop-in center;
if he asks the right way, in earnest, convincing us
of the gravity of the situation—
then we would solve this problem.
But we have no secret room,
no mysterious connection with the Divine
to guide us to the whereabouts of the lost
keys. They were lost and beyond us.
We offer the obvious,
boring, and responsible.
And he realizes we have no magic,
and walks to the corner,
stares out at the other clients
mumbling to himself and
running his hands through his hair.
I return to half-sleep prayers,
wondering if I was asking
in the right way, if God knewthe gravity of the situation.