“to make sense, to get it right, to get to the bus stop” (David Plumb)

90s Batmale Hall
Past issues of Forum, published as City Scriptum and Voices in the 1990s.

The Homeless Envelope

by David Plumb

The fat yellow manila envelope
on the window ledge of the Bank of America
branch at Stockton and Columbus
said Harry Woodson, homeless
The poor state of his life attested to
by a dental clinic sheet with a bus token taken on
that would get his teeth fixed
or at least the front right incisor he complained about
There was a voucher from a homeless shelter
saying he was a volunteer in their food program
and according to another form
he was supposed to have a welfare interview at ten
to prove he was Harry Woodson and that he
lived at the Holland Hotel

I called his case worker
a Filipino man who talked too fast
and got ground up on the phone with the buses going by
and when I rang the Holland Hotel bell
I was greeted on the stairs by a woman named Patel
who was suspicious of me, of him and I’d guess the world in general
At any rate he’d checked out
and I had the envelope

A documentation of hunger
one-night stands and rotting teeth,
suspicion, alienation and missed appointments
A fragmented life trying a piece at a time
to make sense, to get it right, to get to the bus stop
with what little ammunition he had left
(yes he was a bet) to take the token
before losing it to a stranger or a crowd
before the madness took over or the tooth hurt too much
or the bus went by
and the bus went by
and all that was left was the envelope
I put back on the ledge

“The Homeless Envelope,” by David Plumb originally published in City Scriptum ([Forum] 1989, City College of San Francisco).


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