Upon commencement from a Southern College
where I pursued for years a higher knowledge
of art and other subjects I enjoyed,
without a care for how I’d be employed
(my parents set aside a schooling fund
and thus I could afford to learn for fun),
I suffered quite a rude awakening—
my lightsome life became a heavy thing.
The days I spent in making pretty pictures
abruptly wholly filled with fiscal pressures
while since I felt that art is of the soul,
too fine a good for being bought or sold,
what little skill I had was not applied
to earning needed money. I survived
through months without a clue of what to do
because my sister helped me pay my dues.
Eventually, I ended up in sales
where winter hours passed as slow as snails
while I sat in a basement with a view
of a crow-filled leafless graveyard, adding to
a sinking feeling with each pitch I gave
about the Boston Globe, in front of graves,
depressed and feeling that my life was through
as I despaired about what I could do.
My boss eavesdropped on my calls for the Globe
through some device he’d stuck to his ear lobe
and overheard me looking for a job.
Outside of work, beneath a tree, I’d sob
because existence struck me like a rock,
and all I felt I had was five o’clock.
Since I had studied print photography,
the first thought that occurred to me
was to apply for working as the staff
for some store that would make a photograph
from every negative that people brought,
for pictures in those long gone days were bought,
not stored in phones or other sleek devices,
before such things as selfies turned to vices.
I scored a job in which my daily role
was turning rolls of film the boss would dole
to negatives through which I’d shine a light,
for making color prints or black or white
(I’d later see this as a metaphor
that life though it looks negative yields more
when light is shined through it as for a print).
But after working, I would have to squint
because I spent the day in sunless darkness,
and this combined with my depression’s starkness
left me depleted, totally exhausted,
as if by muggers I had been accosted.
So, often I would ask to leave, too tired,
and, not surprisingly, I soon was fired.
My boss was nice and tried to get me help,
because he knew that I was in deep hell,
but I declined since recently I’d been
committed one week to a loony bin
when counselors in whom I had confided
thought I might kill myself and so decided
to have a cop detain me as I left
and took my freedom as a safety theft.
Back in the year of nineteen eighty-six,
which in tenacious recollection sticks,
it wasn’t hard for me to find some work
although my mind and mood had gone berserk,
so on the morning that I had been fired,
I walked around and shortly afterward was hired
in Boston by a chain of photo labs
nestled in the midst of concrete slabs.
The pay was peanuts as it was before
(the minimum in those days was just four),
but that sufficed because my rent was low
(an elderly, sweet landlord kept it so).
By day-long darkness I was not enveloped
as by machines the photos were developed,
so I just pressed some buttons while it spat
the photos in a stack for looking at.
Though that beat working in the dark all day,
my restlessness was hard to keep at bay,
because I felt that I had lost my soul,
and that was on my mind with each film roll.
But then I took their job as courier
so I could spend the day as worrier,
paid to pace the town and ride the train
consorting with the tumult in my brain,
without the need to be confined indoors
but taking rolls of film between the stores.
For half a year, I roamed like this the town,
not just in slight despondence but way down.
While carrying some film through Harvard Square,
distressed, without much energy to spare,
I saw a woman passing out some sheets
to passersby for hours on the streets,
and somehow, in a way I can’t remember,
I had immense good fortune, and I met her,
and we began to talk of things we think,
her artwork and my drawings done in ink.
And so when I had felt all hope was gone,
I found an awesome friend, raised in Iran,
and though in public I had been a crier,
I joined the firm and handed out each flyer
to passersby although the pay was low,
and though monotony made days feel slow.
It happened then that my depression ended
through dreams in which my ailing mind was mended.
They had to do with Christmas in the spring,
not on the calendar but in my being,
and while he didn’t know what I went through,
a coworker, although he was a Jew,
said, “Merry Christmas, man, for you.
I don’t know why I said that but wished to.”
A while more I’d pass each ad-filled flyer
but soon sought more to which I could aspire.
As I recovered from a year of hell,
without much of a working skill to sell,
and deep depression for a time would vanish,
I sought employment where I could use Spanish,
because I felt my mother tongue helped me
think, through a different language, differently.
English was the language of the thoughts
that filled me with despairing. Polyglots
are fortunate with many they can choose.
I started working for a Spanish news-
paper where I got a raise in dues,
from four to five which then seemed like a lot,
although it still was peanuts what I got.
I spent a lot of time there in the dark,
yet as my mood was then no longer stark,
the hours were not difficult to bear,
and sunlight streamed in basement windows there.
Run by a family from Ecuador,
my job was entertaining, not a bore,
because my mood had gone from hell to heaven,
and they had brought a child who was seven
who on his breaks from school would be around.
He made the place where I was daily bound
delightful with his kid imagination.
He said that in a former incarnation
we had been friends as now again we were,
with the same girlfriends—his much prettier
(in fact, then at the age of twenty-three,
I loved my life’s first girlfriend crazily).
Of that long job and all the work I did,
I most remember fun with that great kid.
I used the primitive technology
developing the photos that would be
used in the paper published every week
but after one year felt that I should seek
more fruitful work while life began to bud,
because I was disturbed by all the blood—
the news of murders that were focused on,
in which each victim was a helpless pawn.
My boss said “red news” always sold more papers,
but I felt that their stories could be shapers
of people’s outlooks—poisoning their views—
and so I quit the outlet for such news.
To have more time for writing poetry
and spend my days with flexibility,
not having to be chained from nine to five,
a lion’s share of hours of being alive,
I chose to start a business of my own
and put up advertisements with my phone
for people needing someone who would type
their college papers in which thoughts were ripe
on lots of subjects, so I got to learn
of many topics, while I’d also earn.
My first was a thesis for a PhD,
sought by a student of Art Therapy—
a topic that was near then to my heart
for I too saw great therapy in art.
My fee was by the page. I made enough
for paying rent and other needed stuff,
but hours spent were more than I expected
because of all the grammar I corrected,
mistakes of English made by foreign speakers
or poorly educated native seekers
of typing services that I’d provide
without a charge for fixes I supplied,
because I lacked the heart for charging more
to students who were deep in debt or poor,
in years before computers were widespread,
and I could learn from what I typed and read.
Although my hot-line was a neat success
where I could be my own boss without stress,
more steady jobs grew difficult to spurn
as I soon had to find new ways to earn.
To supplement the income that I got
times when my Typing Hot-line wasn’t hot,
I joined some agencies who’d fill the rut
with jobs for me from which they’d take a cut.
The jobs I got were awful, yet OK,
as they were temporary—some a day,
though others dragged for months, a horrid bore,
till I just couldn’t take them anymore.
On one such job I did some data entry
in which each hour seemed to last a century.
I entered washing machine serial numbers
and grew each passing hour number and number,
and yet I managed as my mood was good
so jobs like that back then could be withstood,
though looking back at how I was employed
it seems such work’s more suited to a droid.
It helped I was in love—though I didn’t elope–
while at a job of stuffing envelopes–
a job that now might be done my machines
or low paid starting workers in their teens.
In one I moved some desks from dawn to dusk
yet didn’t feel then like a hollowed husk
because back in my twenties such a chore
was exercise that I could be paid for.
I emptied boxes full of children’s toys
and witnessed how man’s industry employs
an endless stream of plastic where we’re drowning,
a part of why the green of Earth is browning,
and being part of this was hard to bear
while I pulled from a box each teddy bear.
Earth’s devastation there appeared so big,
but I left when I found a steady gig.
Aflame with love for Christ of whom I’d dreamed
so that I felt my soul had been redeemed,
I wished to serve and called an agency
that worked to find help for the elderly.
I went to homes of people who were old
and helped them clean, or do as I was told
to aid them in some other ways as needed
since youthful ease had long ago receded.
One told me it was no job for a man.
That didn’t bother me or change my plan,
and of the jobs I’d had till that time, it
was, I’d have to say, my favorite,
because it gave me meaning not just money,
and that made cold gray winters feel more sunny.
But I saw things that left me saddened too:
a man disabled by a sudden stroke, who
had magazines with youthful buxom boobs
contrasting with his old flesh pinched by tubes.
And one man without legs who gave his wealth
to someone he thought loved him while in health,
but who neglected him, while his landlord
cared for him like someone she adored.
A sweet old woman, like an angel sent
to make up for the woman who had spent
the wealth that no one, in the end, can keep.
One man who always thanked me, “Thanks a heap!”
stayed in my memory, till decades later
I’d try to help in some way that was greater…
When I had passed the age of twenty-five,
I hadn’t owned a car or learned to drive,
because I didn’t want one, didn’t care,
as they were harming Earth, polluting air.
In Boston, car-lessness was not a strain
as almost anywhere I’d take a train.
So I thought it was funny that I got
work taking cars from people who had not
made payments for them as they were required.
It was by some detectives I was hired
to type reports about their spying on
car drivers, waiting till they all were gone
and left their cars on public property
where they were repossessed then secretly.
My back was to the entrance, and I got
lucky that I wasn’t ever shot
by people who were mad their cars were towed
because of all the payments that they owed.
But workers in a bank that lent the loot
weren’t lucky—someone did go in and shoot.
I worked a couple of years at that grim job
transcribing tales of agents who would rob
the cars of people who had not paid for
those wheels—perhaps because they were too poor.
Then swiftly many more were strapped for cash,
because the weak economy would crash,
and no one could buy cars as banks would scoff
at people penniless. I was laid off.
With not too many working skills to sell,
my unemployment lasted for a spell
of one year while the global markets tanked,
and all the little money that I banked
was unemployment checks that I was sent,
which barely gave enough for paying rent.
My sister and her beau shared that expense,
and though it wasn’t much it was immense
to me in that whole year I didn’t earn.
I moved to Florida but would return
when I found out that there was even worse
and that to Florida I was averse.
I’d tagged along—my sister and her beau
wished to live by the sea. I chose to go
as Boston prospects waned, and since I’d be
close to the eldest of my family—
my grandfather and grandmother I loved
and would be near since joblessness had shoved
me from the Northern state that I’d been in
to Florida where new life would begin.
We settled near where rockets blasted off,
propelled by flames the big engines would cough
and even saw a shuttle launch at night,
reflecting on the sea a shaft of light.
But we lived in a small town on the coast,
where jobs were even scarcer than in most
depressed parts of the country, and what’s worse
I didn’t have a car, which was a curse
in Florida, without a bus or train—
I had to ride my bike through sun or rain
vast distances of highways that were flat,
and I grew to dislike where I was at
and pine nostalgically for Massachusetts,
its hills and seasons—till I’d finally choose it
as home where I would sink deep roots and stay
recalling my return as joyful day.
A jobless year instilled in me resolve
to add some needed job skills that would solve
my problems finding work but also be
related loosely to my school degree.
I chose computer graphics and began
to study on my own without a plan
except for that of building slowly skills,
so I’d get better jobs to pay my bills
and have some fun with work that I enjoyed
in which my skills in art would be employed.
I called myself “The Graphics Guru” then,
and with new skills, in Boston once again,
set out to find some work through agencies
with temporary jobs. I hoped through these
my skills would grow till finally I could
get some great job—or one at least half good.
The first had nothing to do with anything graphic.
It had to do instead with cars and traffic;
the processing of tickets with the help
of big machines. That job would have been hell,
but with coworkers I could have a blast
in chatting so the hours wouldn’t last
as long. Although the job was tedious,
the chats made it appear less so to us.
While answering the phone, I would disguise
my voice with funny accents I’d devise.
Thus weeks, then months, of working hours flew,
till it was time to go before I knew.
I stayed for six months at the chat-filled gig
as my small graphic skills grew slowly big.
Through temp work I built up my résumé
so it included new skills that would pay
more than I’d made before, by quite a bit.
Computer graphics was the ticket. It
enabled me to get some bigger checks,
and work became a blessing not a hex,
because I got to use my mind much more,
so job tasks that had been a drudge-filled bore
got interesting, or less monotonous:
the jobs a droid can do aren’t meant for us!
To pay the rent and needed things I bought,
I didn’t want to slave like some robot,
so learning new skills wasn’t only fun;
it meant that I could feel like less of one
and even turn the hours spent in labor
to moments I could sometimes also savor.
As “Graphics Guru” which I had become,
in little time a job offer would come
from somewhere that I had been temping at,
and I was perfectly delighted that
the place was one I liked—a biotech
developing a drug to stop the wreck
that’s caused by strokes or by head injuries,
so I felt part of something that would ease
the suffering of others. It felt great
to work for them, because I could relate
to that important mission. Though they were
in business for the loot, not just a cure,
the mixing of the motives was excused
because what they developed would be used
to help, so it was just and fitting
that from this we could also make a living.
A biotech that focused on the brain
was fun to work for rather than a strain
because I got to chat with everyone
and sometimes even learn while having fun
and make some friends I’d keep I hope for life.
One buddy helped me meet my future wife
by coming with me as a helpful spy,
so I would ask her out and not be shy.
Unlike some bosses I had in the past,
my boss was cool, relaxed. I had a blast
in making graphics for the company,
of scientific interest to me,
like drawings of receptors on a cell
to show effects of drugs they hoped to sell.
I made some lasting friends of scientists
and had mind-blowing talks in office trysts,
of consciousness, cosmology and depth,
philosophies regarding life and death.
For scientists conducting their research,
I made big posters showing how the search
for efficacious drugs was turning out,
but test results would in the end cast doubt
on one that they were banking on—the drug
that didn’t work as hoped, which meant the rug
was pulled from under all of us, so that
we lost our jobs for a drug called Cerestat.
When I was laid off from the biotech,
I didn’t face a swift financial wreck,
because they gave us severance—ample pay
that lasted three months from the layoff day
and helped us with a better résumé.
Besides, four years of work had helped me build
a savings’ stash so that the days weren’t filled
with worries over how I’d make the rent.
Though months of joblessness could make a dent,
that dent was not as awful as before,
because I wasn’t single anymore.
My wife could not provide financially
as she was student then of pharmacy,
but we lived in her parent’s condo, so
we didn’t need to cough up too much dough
for housing, and I saw the perfect chance
for working independently—freelance.
My business then was fairly lucrative:
it gave at least the needed loot to live,
and I became a contractor who’d bounce
around with cares that barely weighed an ounce,
because I was in love then with my wife,
and work was just a sliver of my life.
I got a long term gig beside the sea
at another drug-development company,
where walls were made of glass, so I could see
the seagulls fly around me through the day.
It was a gorgeous place for earning pay.
But its main drug did not work out as hoped,
so I was canned again, but never moped
or sat around at home, a mossy slob,
but found a full-time gig, a steady job.
It seemed the thing that I should do, and yet
one should be careful with the job they get,
for this was at a corporate hell-hole,
where at the door you’d have to leave your soul
and work without a window in a cave.
It wasn’t worth the money that I’d save.
You’d have to chart how you spent every second.
I quickly left, although I never reckoned
my greatest job was yet to come, and it
would be a chance I missed had I not quit.
A century had set, a new one dawned,
a new millennium, and from our bond
of love, my wife and I had formed a bun
that baked within her and would soon be done,
and that gave me a sense of urgency
to have a steady job, so we could be
prepared for her arrival in the summer.
To lack insurance would have been a bummer,
because the fee was much more than a dollar—
twelve thousand for the hospital. We’d holler
not just from pangs of birth but from the pang
of feeling we’d been robbed as by a gang,
compared to countries where the cost is free
since universal care would pay the fee.
It’s true the money would come from a tax,
but we’d not have to worry when an axe
had cut our jobs so we would lose our care,
but luckily we were a covered pair,
because I got a job before the day
of birth, for which we didn’t have to pay.
The job was in a university,
and one of wonderful longevity,
for as I write this, I’m still working there,
now almost twenty years—a job that’s rare,
not just in length but other ways as well—
the furthest one can get from corporate hell,
and one that for a lucky person fits
because it offers splendid benefits,
a month of paid vacation being one.
Others weren’t expected but have done
a lot to make me like the place long term
as ideal place for me, a big book worm;
a place where I can get far more than wages
from giant libraries whose volume pages
are free to keep a year and then renew.
And there are perks of which I never knew
till I would make good usage of them later,
which made the benefits appear then greater.
Like, learning to play piano, I could go
to practice in their piano studio,
a place where I have played on lunch breaks often
since playing music I have found can soften
the hard part of the job—the drudgery
of staring at computers constantly.
That too was not as it could be,
when I got my own office and could see
big trees outside each office window pane
which made screen-staring much less of a pain.
The job had started out monotonous,
with endless tables, but I didn’t fuss
and there has been a great variety
of interesting tasks assigned to me,
like illustrating, animating, making videos
for training, books, and presentation shows.
I’ve loved to use my head to automate,
to spare us sometimes from the dismal fate
of repetitious processes that we
could delegate to our machinery.
So schools around the world can be their best,
the center where I work designs a test,
for math at different levels, more for science,
and reading for results of great reliance
used by countries seeking to improve
in ways that reams of test data can prove
will probably be helpful, so we aid
in education through the tests we’ve made.
The purpose of the center isn’t profit
(although for years I’ve made my living off it),
and that to me has had a great appeal
as its important mission makes me feel
my labor helps to make a better world
as better learning systems are unfurled.
For years the job has lasted, like a boulder
washed by waves that hit me, growing older,
enduring through the times that life has changed
as when my wife and I became estranged,
and single fatherhood became my life,
and sharing custody with my ex-wife.
My job, the boulder struck by crashing water,
enabled me for years to raise my daughter
by all financial pressures unconcerned,
providing her our home with what I earned.
At first it helped too in another way
because the college also had pre-K,
hardly more than one block away,
so I could pick her up on my lunch break
and bring her to my office where we’d make
drawings or have other fun together,
always a delight to go and get her.
My job, that boulder, firm beside the sea,
endured through health and then infirmity;
anxiety attacks, depression, OCD;
a flutter so my heart needed a shock
to get back into rhythm. And the rock
remained. I’m thankful for my boss who’d walk
around the campus with me when my nerves
were shattered into restlessness. The curves
I faced on life’s steep road had left me frazzled
(without a gorgeous summit view that dazzled),
and there were points from which the plunge was steep,
and, discombobulated, I couldn’t sleep:
Severe insomnia took an awful toll,
till it seemed I was bound to lose my role
as Graphic Specialist that I had kept,
that looked impossible when I’d not slept.
The ailments that afflicted me were treated
and I have fought them too, and some retreated,
like waves that hit the shore and then recede,
though new ones hit the coast with height and speed.
I know, despite how long the rock has lasted,
a wave may come by which it could be blasted,
but I keep building on it though unsure
how long it will, like anything, endure.
In twenty years of working at the center,
I’ve seen a lot of new coworkers enter
then leave and take their luggages of skills,
and I have joked I’m older than the hills
when introduced in settings that are cordial
because I’m one of few who is primordial
in having been there since the early days
that now are dimming in an eon’s haze.
My coworkers, too many to here name,
have sometimes made the job seem like a game,
delightful, not a pill. I thank them all
from A to Z, but starting off with Paul,
and Joe, and Sue, Steven, and Ruthanne,
Kerry, Erin, Bethany, and Anne;
more names than in my memory can stick—
Fonny, Andi, Cristian, Ina, Mick;
I’d like to list them all though they be many–
Ieva, Debra, Kathryn, Liqun, Yenny.
Yet still I feel a faux pas is committed
because of all the names I have omitted:
for all unmentioned I am grateful too
and say that it’s been great to work with you.
When finally leaving, I may shed a tear
though work I’ve most loved is as volunteer…
Back in my twenties, filled with love of Christ,
I volunteered because I felt enticed
to bring that love to people suffering,
through reading poetry and offering
the beauty found in poetry that rhymes
to people, elderly, far past their primes,
confined within a nursing home—a fate
they had to face as memories would fade.
It was a good experience, and yet
thirty years would pass before I’d get
another job as volunteer—that taste
made me feel that my life had gone to waste,
because there was much more I could have done
had I not carried self-absorption’s ton.
I raised a daughter, nearly by myself,
but most of life had come from some bookshelf,
and I lived in my mind more than the world,
as if a bud curled up and not unfurled.
It dawned on me that we’re each like a leaf,
collecting light, no matter our belief,
and we’re most happy when we feed the tree,
of life and of our shared humanity,
and no one says a leaf is nice and good
because it feeds its tree that’s made of wood.
It’s simply doing what it was made for.
I wish that I had known this truth before:
I’m nothing by myself—without the tree.
I feel my best work has been done for free,
because we make much more than when we’re paid,
when, like a light-collecting leaf, we aid
the tree on which we bloom to thrive and grow
with help we give as amateur or pro.
As I was having trouble with my health,
I sought a way that I could be of help
and shed self-centeredness to which I’m prone
when ailments make me weary, make me groan,
and in that time of anxiousness and fears,
a friend I’d known for nearly thirty years
suggested one good way I could contribute
was making sandwiches I could distribute
to homeless people, wandering the city.
Although my hometown, Boston, may be pretty,
there are many here who suffer homelessness,
as the rich make more and the rest make less and less.
The sandwiches I made at first were seven,
a number chosen since it rhymes with heaven,
as I wished to bring heaven down to Earth,
reminding strangers that their lives had worth
although they had no place to call their own,
although with frequency they were alone.
So as I made each sandwich, I would pray
“May someone taste some love in this today.”
When I had finished giving out my stash,
along with maybe just a little cash,
I heard a song play on the radio
that seemed to me to be so apropos:
“ooh baby, do you know what that’s worth?
You make heaven a place on Earth.”
I’d photographed the beauties to be seen
in Boston walks, and added this routine
at times when I went for a city stroll,
and feeding others, I would feed my soul.
But ailments plaguing me grew more severe,
heart flutters and anxiety fueled fear,
like fear of hell with which I was engrossed.
Religious OCD was diagnosed.
But though it seemed that I might work no more,
soon I’d have not one new job but four.
For two years I’d been singing in the choir
but Scrupulosity had grown so dire
that it was triggered painfully in church
propelling me to institute a search
for some way to replace the church—a task
in which I’d simply do what Jesus asked:
not genuflect or sit down on a pew,
religious iconography in view,
but feed the hungry, visiting the sick…
I’d heard the clock in me go “Tic, toc, tic…”
and while I was still able hoped I could
do something with my life that would be good.
A friend who had for some time been my neighbor
recommended then a place of labor…
assisted living for the elderly
was offered at a place a mile from me,
and I began my volunteering there,
on Sunday mornings. It became the heir
of church that I attended in that slot
of weekend time. I wished to give a shot
to bringing music, poetry, and cheer
to somewhere full of pain, despair, and fear.
When I began, my sleeplessness was brutal,
and treatments made it worse or had been futile,
and anxiousness at times would make me weak.
The job, though, was the highlight of each week
as if through care of others I could bring
light to theirs and my own suffering.
I didn’t play the piano as a kid,
but learned much later, and I’m glad I did,
not just for joy it’s brought me which is big,
but joy I could bring in a weekly gig.
My dog, though never trained in therapy,
has come for several years there now with me
and sits agreeably on people’s laps
or comfortably beside them, taking naps,
and he has brought great fun to residents,
relief as well for woes that are intense.
I’d taken acting classes which helped me
in telling stories entertainingly,
with rhymes that made the residents and staff
crack a smile, or burst out in a laugh.
In youth, I’d dreamed of teaching poetry,
and almost every subject interests me,
so for whatever subject I would teach,
I’d bring delight of learning them to each
(the one exception might be economics
though even that could be some fun as comics).
Although the teacher dream has not come true,
there’s some related thing that I could do.
As volunteer for where I work, BC,
I read to kids in elementary
schools, near my office, during some lunch breaks,
and it’s been wonderful for years and makes
my day each time I read the rhyming stories
I’ve found in libraries, which are like quarries,
full of jewels glittering with rhyme,
and I regard myself as blessed that I’m
employed somewhere where I can often share
such stories in lunch breaks, with time to spare.
The children are delightful and engaged,
as I act out the stories as though staged,
and raise their hands for questions that I’m asking
about the rhyming stories I’m enacting.
My daughter isn’t little like before.
I’m glad to kids in schools I can read more.
Like all the volunteering I have done,
for me it’s been enriching, even fun,
and not what could be called a sacrifice
of time or energy from someone nice.
A red cell in the bloodstream isn’t called
nice for all the oxygen it’s hauled
from lungs to other cells within the body,
as that’s it’s mission, and it would feel shoddy
if it had sense and couldn’t do its part
in bringing what it has, sent by the heart.
And that’s the way I’ve come to see myself,
within life’s body like a bloodstream cell.
But I’ve been blind to this identity
when self absorbed in things afflicting me.
On one such day, when vision had declined,
I saw a woman smiling, who was blind,
and I sensed she then saw what I could not,
and shortly afterward I had the thought
we see ourselves as separate and apart,
but sometimes see that we are all a part
within a larger whole. It’s not with eyes
that we see this, but when we exercise
a sense beyond our sense of separateness
by doing things for others which express
that we’re not separate as we seem to be
but one within a whole that we can’t see.
To exercise my feeble oneness vision
and counteract a sense of sad division,
I volunteered for helping someone blind
to do their groceries. No weekly grind,
I take it as a privilege I’m able
to help her put some good food on her table.
As volunteer for her I had been paired
by the MA Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
To them I owe this opportunity
to be of help as I have wished to be.
Another group in Boston I discovered
that’s been of help for me as I’ve recovered
from OCD related to religion,
was Common Cathedral, aiding in revision
of life that had been centered in my head
to trying to be of some small help instead.
The church is not of stone. The people meet
in shelters for the homeless or the street.
Its pastors minister to all in need
regardless of a person’s place or creed.
The pastor, Laura, sent me to McInnis,
a respite home with healing patients in this
facility for care of homeless people,
as sacred as a church, though with no steeple.
I’ve started there as what is called a PAL,
a Patient Activity Leader for guys and gals
to do things as with music or with art.
With just a couple months now since my start,
I’ve seen it will be challenging yet hope
the work I do there will help people cope
with situations that are awfully hard,
in a nation rich in loot but poor in heart,
where often people live from check to check
and trouble with your health can cause a wreck
that makes you end up homeless on the street.
A volunteer job I felt was a treat
was just a day of helping build a home,
installing walls and insulating foam,
with Boston’s Habitat for Humanity,
which made a power tool wielding man of me.
In my life, happiness has only entered
when I’ve expelled my urge to be self-centered,
so volunteering hasn’t been a chore,
and I hope through the years I can do more.
Mario A. Pita
(Part of the forthcoming book, Pentameter Memoir)