I used to want everything
I was thirsty, and starving
time was I lifted my face to the rain and then there were umbrellas and vinyl hats
(it's Oregon
it's not magic, it's Oregon and winter, every day)

I had a great-aunt (Irene)
I had a great-aunt who went crazy
wasn't brutal she said (it was electroshock) say you were spinning
in a literal rut, a groove, say you sputter the chorus like a warped old 45
(not a shock it was but a tap on the needle, spinning you forward)

I suffocate myself
(may break my bones, and words forever hurt me)

I used to suck them in, as elixirs

now I shut them out, as in rain
Broke my own self. An experiment.
I'm a shuddering mouse now, red-eyed and wary, waiting for results
(and coughing)

Had there been a road map, I would have no doubt gotten lost anyway. Directions were a bit meaningless when none of us know up from down when we wake up late at night and have those thoughts about the universe. The difficulty of living in a place that one could not pinpoint bothered me more than most, I guess. But guessing was all I could do; no different from the most intelligent physicists in the world of the 21st Century. They spoke of quarks and strange matter. It was so much shaman speak. Yet they wrote their articles and published their books, getting paid by universities of higher learning and think tanks and governments. And they had no more of a clue where this all came from and what was up or down than me, or the bearded old guy on the bicycle.

He was always there, at the same time on the same days. I often wondered why this graying, overweight dropout from society had such a tight schedule. Then it dawned on me one day when I saw a mini-van stop and a young motherly type roll down her window and hand the smiling vagrant, standing aside his bicycle, a sandwich. This was how a homeless person could actually be overweight. There were set schedules at which time the givers would give and he would take. It was as ordered as the stars. That was not a bad way to run this game.

It beat the hell out of the toothless one who walked around town with the D-Cell battery hanging from two frayed wires, attached to a headset on which he listened to the radio (?) or something through those headphones. It was usually the middle of the day when he was spotted, so it couldn't be Art Bell. Was it Rush Limbaugh? NPR? Top Forty? The Oldies Station? How I wanted to stop that one and just say, "Could I listen for just a minute?" I would never have done it because I feared he was listening to white noise. The noise of the universe. That would have been a bit too spooky had I been correct.

One mid-morning, at the huge grocery store, I was buying some groceries and I saw the toothless one come in and go straight for the free coffee stand. As with most of the folks who don't have access to a shower, he was filthy as can be. His clothes were dirty, but it was his face that made the impression. It was as if he had covered it with the stuff athletes put under their eyes before the big game. His teeth were almost all black, as well. Was that part of the game gear? If not, how they must ache. I supposed that the game he was playing required a lot of greasepaint to hide the lights when he had to look up and haul in that game winning catch.

Curious, I hurried to my car to see where he was going with his free coffee. He walked hurriedly, as he always did, around the corner of the store. There was a recycling place back there, and a dumpster. He carefully placed his Styrofoam cup of coffee on the edge of the little doorway into the dumpster and then climbed in. A filthy hand emerged and captured the cup, as if it had been doing it for centuries. Which shocked me, because this guy was at least 20 years younger than me. The arm and hand moved as surely as the North Star moves across the sky.

So, where are they going? Where do they walk to and ride their bicycles to every day? You could say, "Well, it must be that they are going to the shelter to get lunch." Or, "They must be going to the overpass where they sleep each night."

You could say that. But you'd be making the same mistake the PhDs make every day of their life. They are sure they will find out why the stars move as they do and what creates stars and where we are in this mess and where it all began.

I will tell you this in all modesty. I know as much about these homeless vagrants as those guys know about the universe. And I don't have a clue.

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