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(IV) Notes on Loving a Homeless Man

IV

The hesitation that you hear in my voice is just that I’m used to alarms going off when I’m near doorways. I’m used to police approaching a crowd, and somehow always asking me what I’m doing there before they ask anyone else. I’m used to them asking me to leave, and leaving others to their business.

I’m just more comfortable standing outside. I feel more like things happen the way they are supposed to out here. Did you know that you have to be inside to die of a stray bullet, or in a house fire, or of a heart attack while you’re laying in your bed next to a woman who calls your heart her heart, and doesn’t sleep as well when you’re not there? No one ever burns to death in a house fire under a freeway overpass.

I’ve learned that jail is more likely than electrocution. I don’t often find myself living by natural trees, and lightning only strikes telephone poles in movies with time-traveling cars. I’ve learned that thunderstorms are unavoidable and aren’t all that bad.

I’ve learned that thunder is only dangerous when it’s the echo of a gunshot.

I’ve learned that stray bullets always hit who they were aimed at. I’ve learned that stray bullets are aimed at “everyone.” I’ve learned that they will only call them stray bullets if they kill children. They only get called stray bullets when they are found lodged in or near someone who has a name… Someone who will be missed.

If a bullet tumbles through a concrete forest — if it hits a man most humans couldn’t say wasn’t a tree square in the chest — does his life make a sound as it falls off his tongue?

I’ve learned that the only deaths here are murders, and overdoses, and hypothermia, and starvation. The only deaths here are ‘of natural causes.

I want so badly to die of natural causes. And so I’m standing outside. I don’t want you to miss me, but I want to be worth missing. If I never create space in your life to fit myself in, I will never create a void in your life when I leave.

I will leave.

I don’t want to go. But I don’t know what staying feels like. And so I’m standing outside. And wondering if alarms will go off when I walk through the door, or police will tell me to 'move along, if I know what's good for me,' or if you might make me the type of man who can die in his sleep, who could have an early death — who could die unnaturally — the type of man who could give a name to a stray bullet — the type of man who was expected to live.

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(III) … Notes on Loving a Homeless Man

III

It will be pulling teeth with salad tongs.

It will be digging a grave with a Gerber baby spoon.

It will be showing up to an unmarked door, on an unmarked building, on an unmarked street, with windows that seem to be perpetually dark — there is a car parked out front that has 3 flat tires and a missing side-view mirror — and you’re knocking — and knocking — and knocking — and never turning to hide your face as the people walking past look at you strangely, or maybe sadly, or maybe lofting some other kind of pity at you as they walk past en route to more inhabitable property.

You will feel ill-suited for the tasks dripping from your hands.

It will be convincing me that we can each halve this and each still hold the whole of us together. It will be convincing me that a home is something I can have at all. It will be showing me that my hands can carry things and not break them or break myself or break yourself. That not everything in the world is sharp edged, and that if you expect everything to cut you, you either get great at bleeding or great at dropping things, and neither of those are good qualities in a husband or a carpenter.

I don’t quite remember the last time homes were something, anything, other than otherthings to be dreamt of while you wonder about whether morning will keep the streak alive, or decide that it’s already got the Guiness for “most consistent thing in the universe not called to noon and evening, and hey whatever, bro, I was here first," and call out sick today. I’m still not sure where dreams and prayers and cautionary tales intersect and diverge, or how to tell which is which when they all take turns playing the carrot on the end of a stick, a maybe hanging just out of reach, just intriguing enough to lunge for; It’s not that I ever thought I would catch it, but that I’ve seen so many beautiful things in the life I’ve spent chasing it — I didn’t have a reason to stop and just be hungry.

I’ve become accustomed to falling in love with the “almost” of it all. To the point that actually having it sounds like heartbreak. When you wake up every morning for a decade telling yourself that the “point of it all is the journey, and not the destination,” you won’t know what to do when it comes time to stop moving, so you’ll keep walking — through every room of the house — and if you’re not careful — if you don’t stop me — I will walk right back out of the front door, because destiny doesn’t happen to men like me.

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Notes on Loving a Homeless Man (II)

II

I have held in rains longer than I can remember,
unwilling, maybe, to water a field that had
so consistently failed
to bear fruit, you can only till gravel
as if it were soil so long before
you have to accept that a single stem
rosed from concrete can never bloom the same
faith as it would, climbing from a bush to
greet the sun in a garden.

I never knew why, or sometimes what, I was holding back, but whatever it was felt like all I had left, so I protected it like it was my only child.

until you smiled and reminded me that I am allowed to feel something other than lost.

I haven’t known how to get home since they told me
I could no longer sleep under the ashes of my last one,
and
until your face dimpled
I had no clue where to break ground
building a new one —
until your face dimpled,
I was not sure that I could plant
or grow, but now all I do
is water the ground below you
and pray you always petal.

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(I) Notes on Loving a Homeless Man

You will not always know why it is that I feel compelled to tip-jar my tithing into hats and buckets and licked-clean soup cans, the sharp edge of which has clearly kissed a hungry mouth intent on reducing food waste, and why I feel torn open by the mouths that have the scars consummated with that union. There is just something in his outstretched hands, and the gravel that echoes through his praise that reminds me of the nights I have spent turning anything I could find as holy as I could hold it and making it into a makeshift pew and altar.

I will not know how to ignore the ringing in my ears, the sound that the look of a man waiting on commuters to leave his living room makes — the unsure look of someone who can’t quite tell where it is that he feels the least alone, nor a clue as to how to seek it out; a man to whom feelings of being welcomed, and wanted, and anything more than unworthy might as well be the things that come with lottery winnings.

I would buy a lottery ticket, too.

I have bought lottery tickets, too. They always seemed to have odds-to-win as good as anything else I have tried.

There is something about looking into empty eyes, and empty hands held up to random humans as though beatifying them will turn them into saints… something about someone asking for whatever it is that they hope might keep them warm that night that will always buckle my knees.

I do not know how to stand over these people.

I will want to prostrate, or at least kneel so our tears start out the same distance from heaven and the same distance from earth when we free each other, I will cry with them. I will cry for them. I will want to hold them like a brother I thought had died years ago, overjoyed to see him again and broken that I can’t house him, if I can barely house myself.

I will look at you and not know where you are asking me to lead you. These numbers on this house don’t add up to a number I know how to count towards.

I will sleep on the back porch, so the cops do not think I am a tresspasser. I will thank you for the blanket. I will not know why you are angry — why you are crying — why you invited me here.

I love you, but I cannot stay here. I have burned down every house I have ever slept in.

Anonymous asked:

Dear Dr. Heron, can I sail thru the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?

I’ve been afraid of changes. For a long time, probably. You get comfortable doing a certain thing. You get comfortable surviving. You get comfortable being less than happy, and eventually you stop knowing whether or not you’re allowed to want more, or if this is just life. You remind yourself of how grateful you are for where you are and who you are and the things you feel like you might be capable of. But you spend so much time building your life around you(rself) and then one day there’s someone else standing there — and you just have to jump off a cliff and hope you’re able to finish growing up on the way down.

So if I can handle the seasons of my life — time has made me bolder — I think you’re probably getting older, too…

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Ask Niles: I’ll come up with a catchy title, one day, but first….

Family, Friends, Followers, Tumblr —

I’m hoping to do an I’m-not-holier-than-thou advice column that actually acknowledges race and sexuality and societal norms… our position as leaders and followers and participants in a world transforming under our fingertips care of this digital revolution… our position as lovers in a world not teaching us healthy or reasonable expectations and standards and outlooks on our relationships with each other and the world… I just want to talk about how we can all do better, and the things that hold us back. And the hurdles we don’t know how to clear. And the things that make us remember happiness is worth fighting for. Myself included.

My goal is to find a outlet to publish these one day, maybe, but I have to prove I can write a compelling advice column first. Which means I need people to ask questions. If you could share - tweet - repost - reblog the above, or the below, I’d appreciate it. I need to cast a wide net and get some people to engage with me…

Life, work, relationships, writing, reading, love, hate, want, need, thirst, hunger, full-filled. Let’s talk.

Ask anonymously, or put your name on it.

www.nilesheron.com/ask




[[ An example of someone who asked me for some advice a few weeks ago: "I don’t know how to make ‘I’m Sorry’ matter…." ]]

Anonymous asked:

Your bio says you are teacher, are you a true educator, like in school?

I am not a teacher, in an academic school. I sort-of teach Kung Fu. I have lead classes on poetry before. In my bio what I mean is to say that I’m a student (from people, circumstances, culture, world around me) and a teacher in the same sense. Someone somewhere is learning from my actions and thoughts and words. I’m trying to make sure I hold myself accountable to that, because bad teachers ruin students perceptions of topics. 

Quote Iconi am a pen
with a bullet in the
chamber

i am a black boy
burning a book
about history

i am a black boy
painting new colors
on a flag —

it didn’t match
my shoes, red’s and whites
only remind me bloods and angels
I don’t know how to pray to, and I
don’t believe in that
purple predecessor.

i am a spectrum of sunkissed
skintones, calloused and weathered
and stress-tested

those of us who survive the firing squad
are fileted, and
skinned, and worn

they say, the first man who wears
a nigger’s skin, inherits his
rhythm. and the blues he spent so long
running away from will lay
by his headstone.

Anonymous asked:

Has anybody asked you why you're so damned fine?

Nah, but I give all the credit to God and my parents. Good genes have given me more than a life’s worth of donuts have destroyed.

I’m grateful that anyone can look at me and smile, and it only takes the one person who makes you smile back to make you “fine,” where it matters.

Thank you. I’m blushing. I would lie about it, but I’m really lightskinned, so it wouldn’t work. You’d see it anyway.

keepingupthefeathers asked:

Thank you for your beautiful words. I'm also from metro Detroit area and I'm so proud to know of a local artist whose words are so profound that they speak to me like they were meant for me. That's what great poetry does. Always, I thank you.

You’re so welcome. I feel like I should thank you, though, not the other way around. I’m still getting used to the intersection between writing only for myself, and letting the fact that I know people might read something I write unduly influence what I’m writing… (people like politically bleached topics like love more than charged and still bleeding ones like race or patriarchy or classism — many would rather read 10 words than 100)… 

It is so gratifying when my attempts at staying honest and directed towards my goals is a format and path that works for someone else. I’m humbled. Thank you.

Detroit vs. Everybody. 

Anonymous asked:

During a very trying moment I came on your blog and read your work. You gave me clarity that I wouldn't have found in any place else. Thank you for pulling me out of the darkness with your words. Love, an admiring poet.

I’m so grateful that you were able to find anything in my attempts at documenting my own searches and losses and losts and founds. 

Thank you for bearing with me. I’m glad we get to grow and chase lighter things together.

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Bridge to Somewhere (freewrite 7.13.14)

even with hands built
to carry peace
over troubled waters,
i am only steel and
concrete; only submerged pillars
breaching, desperately reaching
toward heaven so
painfully accustomed to coming up short —
misdirected suspended roads,
i am a bridge to nowhere unless
I have your shores
to land on and name
destiny.

anill-followedplan:

OMMMGGGGGGGG I CAN NOT STAND IMAGES LIKE THIS! 

i get the point but THAT IS NOT WHAT MY CITY LOOKS LIKE!

IT

LOOKS

LIKE

THIS

AND

THIS

do we have areas of blight? absolutely. do we have more blight than other major cities? absolutely. is poverty a real issue in some of our neighborhoods?  absolutely.

BUT THE BLIGHT PORN THAT WE HAVE TIME MAGAZINE TO THANK FOR NEEDS TO STOP.  THOSE IMAGES IN NO WAY EMPOWER DETROIT OR ITS CITIZENS.  THOSE IMAGES TEAR US DOWN.  THOSE IMAGES LET US KNOW THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD THINKS THAT NO ONE VALUES OUR WORTH AND THAT WE DONT HAVE ANYTHING TO OFFER.  THOSE IMAGES PAINT A PICTURE OF A PLACE THAT NEEDS A SAVIOR.  WE DO NOT NEED A FUCKING SAVIOR.  WE NEED NEW BUSINESSES. WE NEED YOUNG PROFESSIONALS.  WE NEED TO WORK OUR WAY THROUGH THIS BANKRUPTCY AND OUR OTHER INFRASTRUCTURAL CHALLENGES.  WE NEED NEW HOME OWNERS AND WE NEED YOUNG FAMILIES AND WE NEED ALL OF THE THINGS THAT ANY CITY NEEDS TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

we are not a charity case.  we are a city with a rich history. we are a city that has had Black leadership in our businesses, municipality, and organizations for decades.  we are a city that is passionate and fiercely protective of our own. we are a city that is recovering from industrialism and trying to figure out how we will transform and who we will become.  we are large enough to fit San Francisco, Boston and Manhattan at the same time and we are working to cover the hundreds of thousands of people across that huge space. support us. lift us up. visit us. move here. but dont perpetuate stereotypes and stigma that make us out to be uninhabited and uncared for.

I don’t usually reblog, but when I do, it’s usually something really important like this.

(Source: america-wakiewakie)

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freewrite 7.11.14

I love you, but maybe
it’s that I love the way
you love me,
baby, maybe
the way you reached up for me like
I was suspended in the sky, held the back
of my neck like I was made of clouds, and
kissed my face like your mouth
was a mut, mixed from mustard seeds and
the kinds of mountains people climb
to separate themselves from mere mortals.
you took a chisel to your chest,
split your sternum,
spread yourself open, and
told me I wouldn’t have to
use cardboard signs and street corners
to mine blessings
anymore, the way you
looked in my eyes
birthed me whole
from homeless.