October 26, 2014, St. Joseph’s Shelter, Gallup, New Mexico

The Lord is my shepherd.
We begin the psalm.
Most of the men have shoes,
though some soles have holes
where socks show through.

I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

Childhood, perhaps, offered
those gathered here green pastures,
snow melt, wildflowers.
Some here once herded sheep.
Each has a sister, brother, father
or grandmother who once raised
sheep, or still herds. An auntie who weaves.
A niece or nephew who woolly rides.

I remember another country, where boys
herd sheep and goats. Boys carved
cross-shaped flutes of wood:
three finger holes to offer a few notes
for song or to signal time of day,
or danger.

He restores my soul.
On the table, there is a gift-wrapped box.
In lieu of label, a sister has written:
“Our treasure” in permanent marker.
In turn we view the treasure: our reflection
in a mirror.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.

And we are here together now,
though each has walked through
obscure valleys and alleys
to reach this table.
Some have stared death down
in the face, swung arms and fists,
seen stars and wrestled strangers
while sleeping under stars
in alleys behind bars with shards
of bottles within arm’s reach.
We all have reached this table
with toil and trial,
not without heartache.
And yet the men continue:
You prepare a table for me,
My cup overflows.


Leave a Comment

  1. Tammy, this is a beautiful poem. I have had students who make fun at times of our street alcoholic people. I remind them that those people were once children, students like them, who had hopes and dreams for their lives. Your words remind me to teach and model compassion to our young folks. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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