November 28, 2017


All the time. Mugs full of flowers stolen from local gardens. Drawings: Jose’s pencil drawing, sharp and architectural. He’s pleased when he gets out of jail and comes by, sees it is still on the wall. Mariah gives me a painting and a drawing, changes her mind, says she wants money. I give her five bucks.

A button of a 1950’s-style lady with pursed lips. It’s a bit gummy. Daniel fished it out of the garbage. He finds everything there: used coffee grounds he recycles for coffee, an eyelet skirt he wears with his hiking boots, a gold ring set with an obsidian oval; he wears it as a pinkie ring and it looks valuable. His hands, black with dirt or frostbite, are covered with warts.

I meet Tommie outside the hardware store; he’s carrying a bag of silica powder: “It chokes the bed bugs.” I step back, but Tommie’s bright with other news. The college students have left for the summer, and the university dumpsters are overflowing with Hippie Christmas. “Some kid got a book from his grandma and threw it right away.  Didn’t bother to look inside the cover, where she put three crisp one hundred dollar bills.” He knows I like poetry, hands over the book. It’s by Mary Oliver, of course.

Kitty knits me a small blanket, then a scarf. Gives me a bead bracelet. Sometimes I go find her in the library where she does jigsaw puzzles on a table. When I leave, Kitty says, “I love you.”

Christmas cards in surprising numbers. With wreaths. Fuzzy kittens in Santa hats. Crosses and nativities.

Batman uses most of his disability money to buy expired candy and cookies. “Take some, take some,” he urges. One time he brings those orange marshmallow peanuts, so ossified they clacked when you hit them together.

I haven’t seen Joe for a while, but he plunges across the street to tell me that all is well, the tumor on his jaw is smaller! I take a look, and it’s gnarly, but, yes, I agree, much smaller. “That’s because a chunk of it fell off!” he explains triumphantly, “But look, I saved it for you.” He pulls a baggie out of his breast pocket.

Tony likes to go to the bank and take stacks of bank teller business cards. He brings them back to the day shelter and inscribes them carefully. Somehow he’s bothered by the mugs of flowers that Larry leaves on my desk, removes them, pours out the water, then refills the mug with the flowers and hot coffee. When I step away, he arranges business cards, a few coins, and a bright SuperBall on the northeast corner of my desk. Always the northeast corner. I am not sure if these are gifts or ritual assemblages. The elements change from day to day, but always coins and scribbled-over business cards. Tony pauses, arranges, and tells me who the best racehorses are. I guard the SuperBall until another case manager spells me for lunch and throws it away.

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