A harder time is coming
They hunch around a fire beneath the bridge,
hazy faces lit in its glow,
like a painting by Van Gogh,
beds of cardboard and shredded blankets.
By the off ramp a woman
with a baby holds out her hat,
good day, two fives and a ten before noon,
when she hides behind a hedge to nurse.
On Refugio Beach near Highway 1,
the pipeline from an oil platform bursts,
raw crude gushes onto sand
and into Santa Barbara Channel.
Some nights we’d lie there on a beach blanket.
After dark people with nowhere else to go
would sneak into the park to sleep;
one night we gave away our wine and cheese,
but it’s never enough to hand out scraps,
to mop up oil after the pipe has burst,
to toss a few coins in a hat,
to bathe a dying pelican in detergent.
Maybe there’s no apocalypse, just the end
of another empire fueled by raw crude,
toss another Denarius in a mother’s hat,
mop up your spills and keep on eating.
by George Longenecker, first published in Isthmus.
Editor’s Note: Yet again, this poet’s work makes use of allegory to convey an emotional narrative. In this poem, the ending stanza offers the reader a conclusion, but no solution.