Over the years, I have befriended many people who go through the rubbish of the neighbourhood, taking out what can still be eaten, used again, recycled or sold.
Most of these people are homeless and live rough. All are extremely poor. Alcoholism claws at many without mercy.
A host of lessons are learnt, some of which are practical and should be obvious – don’t just chuck out food. Wrap it and put it in a clean bag on top of the bin. Wrap broken glass and tins in newspaper so that ‘Diggers’ don’t cut themselves. Bag unwanted clothes separately. Don’t throw out medicines that are not labelled. Etc.
There are other lessons. These have to do with dignity and resilience down there at the very bottom of the social stack.
This morning, Boxing Day, a young ‘Rough Sleeper’ was waiting for me in the dawn light. It was raining softly and he was hunched under his jacket. We have known each other for some three years. That’s about 625 Wednesdays.
I gave him some Christmas cake, milk and fruit.
He handed me a gift-bag that says ‘A little surprise for you’. Inside is a gift wrapped in newspaper. Tied to it is a card, cut from a box. On this is written a message of thanks for being friendly and kind to him.
This gift took him a long time and a lot of thought to get together. It was not like going to the shop and buying it. He found the thrown-out gift-bag and cleaned it. He found the thrown-out gift and cleaned and wrapped that. He had to ask someone to write the message on the card because he can’t write.
I have not yet opened the gift, because I see its procurement and wrapping as the Big Gift. So it is sitting on my sideboard for the moment – a metaphor for Deep Giving – and I wish to give you all the same sort of gift that this homeless, destitute person gave me. It is Love. Not the InstaLove of our rushed world, but Deep Love, the real thing. The one that pulses the Human Heart toward Peace and Goodwill.
Blessings to you all for the year ahead and thank you for being part of my Poetry Caravanserai.
AT THE SOURCE OF THE STARS
By Ahmed Azzegah
Translated from the French by Adré Marshall
Give my bread
To the poor
Give my poems
To the children
To the condemned
Give my weapons
To the oppressed
Give my pity
To the executioners
To the birds
My mad dreams
Give my name
Give my blood
Just let me drink
At the source of the stars
Image: From Chapel of the Magi, Florence
Copyright blog © 2018 Patricia Schonstein
Copyright © At the source of the stars Ahmed Azzegah
Copyright © English translation Adré Marshall