“This is a hymn”


I keep thinking about the six homeless men hacked to death a week ago. And all the other people who make their home on the streets. I talked to one of them last week for an article on the murders, he gave his name as Zenas and said he is 55. He also goes by Norris. He is from England. I don’t know his story, but he said he prefers the streets to a shelter. He carries two bags and wears old, dark clothes. He is always with an elderly man whose hands shake constantly. He is not so alert and seems ill. Like most people, I think, I see the homeless people on the streets, the men, women and children, and wonder. And feel it in my heart and mind. I give money when I can and when it is safe. I hope for them, that one day they are afforded the dignity of privacy, shelter, food, drink, cleanliness, care and companionship. I don’t know the solutions, nobody seems to know judging by the fact that this is a chronic problem. At least the man who killed four of them and tried to kill two others (that we know of) is off the streets, for now. I have asked police sources for their names, and have been told they will try to get them to me. They have families, friends, people who loved them at one point. They were born to a mother who planned, cared for and cherished them, if only at least for a short time. They had hope at some point, perhaps they still do. They are us, all of us, just having been born into different circumstances, or had life hit them harder than most of us at some point.

Lorna Goodison said it better than this, as per my friend Alexis Goffe, who posted this on Facebook the other day:

“Since the massacre of people living on the streets in downtown Kingston and Half Way Tree during the last week I have come to this piece by Lorna Goodison almost daily:”

This Is a Hymn

For all who ride the trainsall night

sleep on sidewalks and park benches

beneath basements

and abandoned buildings

this is a hymn.

For those whose homes

are the great outdoors

the streets their one big room

for live men asleep in tombs

this is a hymn.

This is a hymn for bag women

pushing rubbish babies

in ridiculous prams

dividing open lots

into elaborate architects’ plans.

Mansions of the dispossessed

magnificence of desperate rooms

kings and queens of homelessness

die with empty bottles

rising from their tombs.

This is a hymn

for all recommending

a bootstrap as a way

to rise with effort

on your part. This is a hymn

may it renew what passes for your heart.

This hymn is for the must-be-blessed

the victims of the world

who know salt best

the world tribe of the dispossessed

outside the halls of plenty

looking in

this is a benediction

this is a hymn.

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