Old Black Man - Poem by David McLansky
As I lay helpless on my back
In my own filth, my body wracked
With painful sores on hips and sides,
It's more than a sane man can abide.
The dirty mattress urine stained
I'm too weak-voiced now to complain,
My children steal my government checks,
Plates on the floor, the house a wreck
Exhausted, frail, too weak to rise,
The fallen father, now despised;
My authority mocked and denied,
What more can a man abide?
Had I the strength to rise and stand,
And be myself as I was a man,
I'd chase them out of what was my home,
I'd spit and rage and foul-mouthed foam.
But I was never one to raise a hand,
I tried to make them understand;
I lived with dignity all my life;
Their ingratitude cuts like a knife.
As I lay rigid in my filth,
Soiled, and mocked, and robbed of wealth,
My tears arouse only disdain,
I cry aloud, I cry in vain;
They complain to me that I stink
Televison my only link;
They took the TV from my room
Spraying Febreze amid the gloom.
As I lay sore and paralyzed
With not a hand to help me rise,
Stinking, blind, incontinent,
Too weak of breath to rage and vent.
I pray for death, an invalid,
And question what good I ever did.
My tears are useless but I cry,
Oh Christ on earth, why don't I die!
I lived my life with deep respect
For God and Man, as one imperfect;
Looking each man in the eye,
My sin was pride, my head held high.
I worked and earned an honest wage,
I cursed not God in my rage,
I knelt in Church and daily prayed,
That each day He'd show me the way.
And now I lay by devils taunted,
The lies they tell with which I'm haunted;
I've lost all faith in heartless Man.
God tests me now, I understand.
I lay here now as on a cross
All movement gone, all feeling lost,
My muscles cramped, my body shaken;
Tell me God I'm not forsaken.
Women who I knew from Church
My absence noted, began a search,
Oh the humiliation that I felt
When over me, they bent and knelt!
They wrapped me up, one took me home,
Called Social Services on the phone;
I'm better now, I can sit up in bed;
I've gained some weight, now being fed.
How narrow is the soul of men
How easily they do offend
The laws of God, the laws of men,
While only Mammon they attend
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