There is no reason
for a white man to be here.
Even with a reason it hurts.
Without bars on my windows,
without a gaslamp staring
from an oak-stained door,
I still feel someone pin me
to my invisible footprints
whenever I cross 13th Street.
And on Saturdays, when I help give
free food to a hundred and fifty people,
I see looks of half-eaten hunger
that cast such shadows in me
no amount of confession drives them away.
It's then I wish for a herd of pigs
to send my demons into.
Like Jesus did, when he came upon the demoniac,
the one in the graveyard who cut himself as he spun
from one stoney lover to another.
Even if the pigs did not come
perhaps some holy wings would pin themselves
to my shadowy demons and for one moment
draw them away.
Then, I could see my neighbors,
without smelling for the difference in sweat
or straining to understand a simple conversation
or glancing over my shoulder when I walk in the dark.
After the wings disappear, the demons come back,
and I feel again the herd of impulses
that sometimes batters me;
perhaps the memory of the wings could remain
to dwell on, and talk about,
so often and with such intensity
that it could become a story,
one I could detail and embellish
more with each telling.
Finally, I could become the story
and the shadow of demons
would be a pale fact,
out of place, unable to live
in the light of such a story.
Rob Soley was a member of Sojourners Community, a father and a poet when this poem appeared.