A Real Poem                                               2011 J. Fernandez Rúa


In this sooty-soup

                           grit-gray rain

                                                I need to share

let it all go

                 and tell you about a real poem

                                                              a poem

made of flesh and blood

                                    with far seeing eyes

                                                                  and a deep

and powerful grace

                             His name was Juan Gonzalez

                                                   Juan Gonzalez

I met him in the line waiting for a bowl of soup and piece of bread

                                                              and soon

                                                                           within weeks

we were inseparable

He became a brother to me

                                                where he walked I walked

                                                where he ate I ate

                                                where he slept I slept

when I was sick, he nursed me.

when he was sick, I nursed him.


we even slept under the same blanket.

                                                            At times,

he reminded me of St. Francis

                                              because he loved pigeons too.

Called them

                   his little brothers.

Then, just when I was beginning to see

that this man

                    - who walked around with the words of Jesus in his pocket -

could teach me something real

                                                what we expect but never talk about


                One December night

                                                he fell asleep on a bench in Old Man's Park

                                                                     and never woke up again.

His beautiful heart just stopped.

The streets had worked him too hard for too long

                                                                         and now he was done.

So remember:

                        his name was Juan Gonzalez

                                                                        and he died on a bench

in Old Man's Park.

Not because he was a drunk, demented or insane.

Not because he has on heroin or crack.

Not because he did not want to live.

                                                            The truth is simple: he wanted

what we all want-

to love and be loved in the peace of his own God.

                                                                          And something more-

to be useful

to be useful.

                        Yes, the truth is simple:

                                                            he died because and

only because

                        like me

                                     maybe like you

he was poor

                    gritty gray poor

                                           and except for St. Mary and her few sisters, here and there.

Tell me

who gives a damn about the poor anymore?

Stand or kneel

                      beg or cry

We're on our own

No one knew that better or deeper than my brother Juan Gonzalez

                                                                            and if he was here

                                                                                                       right now

he would say this:

Let us not be stereotyped

Let us not be marginalized, cast aside

Let us not be victimized

Let us not be shamed into silence.

Whatever your name is

                                    I am you

whatever language or culture you were born into

                                                                        I am you

whatever racial group you belong to

                                                      I am you

whether you are man or woman

                                                I am you

whatever faith you hold on to

                                                I am you

whether you're in prison in New York City

Or a detention camp in the fields of Nebraska

                                                                   I am you

whether you're sleeping on a square of cardboard in Oakland

or under a grid in Philadelphia

                                                I am you

I'm in every living pulsating cell

that hungers for justice

                                        and the right to love.

I am you.

I am you.