Marty! Marty! Marty!

Monday morning,

I sit at a table

in a coffee shop.

A young woman taps a tablet.

Marty, the shop’s homeless mascot

just rolled his folded blankets, sleeping bag and outerwear out the door.

In all my years of observing

Martys around Oregon,

I have never seen one with folded anything.

Before leaving, the barista

set him up with

a free fancy drink.

She always does.

He always whispers thank you.

It’s all he can get out.

I’m typing up a dead man’s

entombed writing.

I’m rolling away the stone

and resurrecting my promise.

I wonder if anyone made a promise to Marty,

or Marty made a promise to someone.

Across the street,

my Dad prepares himself

for breakfast in the

assisted living center.

I’ll join him soon for industrial coffee

and establishment oatmeal.

We’ll talk of Marty and

his ubiquitous and

entirely unnecessary

American misery.

Dad and I always talk of men and women like Marty.

We know they’re not the Joads.

We don’t know who they are.

The baristas discuss how to

handle Marty when he needs handling.

They strategize a sympathetic stratagem

they know they’ll

have to implement, sooner than later.

Implement is such a terrible-sounding word,

but it has its uses in policies and matters of the heart.

Marty! Marty! Marty!

You know how much I care about you? Enough to use three exclamations in a poem, that’s how much.

Poets should use them more, a lot more.

You keep folding, brother.

There are lints of hope in that.

They can accumulate into new fabric.

I believe in that,

or I wouldn’t be writing

about you as you shuffle

past me down the sidewalk,

as snow begins to fall.