HE broke my heart.
Schizophrenic – yes. Off his meds – yes.
But the cry from his heart is as clear and cogent as a clarion bell.
I rode the small bus. I took the pills that they gave me.  I endured the other  kids pickin’ on me.
I’ve been places: Detroit, Brooklyn. I’ve been through this before. And I’m tired. When is it my turn to have a career,              a home,                         a family                                      that loves me?
He is so tired.
I walk away for five minutes to look for  a blanket, a bag. When I return he is sound asleep in my  little plastic chair.  I can hardly rouse him.
Things were good for me awhile in Atlanta. I had dreds and they called me  Black Jesus.
Jesus was tired so I told the Lord I would do it, I’m strong.
I just want work for the Lord. Why does he keep  makin’ me go through this?
I ask if he wants to go back to Georgia to be with his family.
I call my sister, she say she don’t want me. It say a prophet is hated by his family.
His eyes brim.
Why don’t nobody wa…

Government Documentation


if we can print  a 3D plastic pistol             locked, loaded, primed for death
we can issue a Social Security card             inextricable from living life that won’t  dissolve             in the rain.
Even  a one-ride bus pass  is made  of             stronger stuff.

What Can You Say?

Day’s end.  Finally.  The nurse is leaving the building.

“You work here?”
I sigh.  A deep, reluctant, eye-rolling sigh.  The day weighs heavily on my shoulders. 
Standing as witness to a laundry-list litany of crushing concerns;  the aching need  for immediate solutions I cannot provide  has drained my cistern of compassion.
What can I say but Yes.
“Are you a believer?”
I sigh.  I don’t want to be  exhorted, proselytized,  converted, or sermonized;
I am weary and  loath to nod  polite agreement to  some peculiar mix of  two parts faith /  one part delusion. 
What can I say but Yes.
And he says,
“Pray for me.  Pray that I can face everything  I am going through.
My name is Michael.”
What can I say but

Harm Reduction: Immunotherapy for the Jaded Heart

Harm Reduction is social worker/health professional speak for practices and programs designed for compassionate damage control in working with at-risk populations.  Harm reduction seeks to minimize the avalanche of unfortunate economic, health, and social consequences inherent in substance abuse and other risky behaviors. Needle exchange programs & no-judgment condom distribution are two examples of this approach. 
Will a clean needle stop an addict from shooting up heroin? Of course not. But it might mean that he is only a heroin addict, not a heroin addict with AIDS. Likewise, condoms won’t prevent participation in dangerous sexual behaviors. But, condoms  can decrease the chances of those behaviors spawning long-term consequences. 
Baby steps, baby.
When we were learning to walk, baby steps were all we could take. 
Baby steps.
When we were learning to read, it was Dr. Seuss not Shakespeare.
Baby steps.
When my patient is dehydrated and sick from a night of hard drinking and a m…

INTRODUCING: Practice Notes

Practice Notes features practical and philosophical observations about nursing care for homeless and nearly homeless patients. When the fragility of illness is compounded with not having a secure place to lay one's head, a patient becomes especially vulnerable. Traditional healthcare approaches are not always available so care plans must often be creatively adapted to each patient's needs and abilities. In this sense, I am always practicing.
"Harm Reduction: Immunotherapy for the Jaded Heart" will be the first in this series.  (Upcoming, scheduled for  9/28/18)

Broken They Found Him

Broken, they found him
            barely breathing       stretched             on top of a sheet             of ice.
Broken, they bound him             to the gurney                        and saved              what was left             of his life.
Bundled to hospital             his life             re-covered.

At the shelter, his story fell out in pieces.
He was pretty sure about his name, could not recall the day of his birth.
I was in the hospital.
He touches his side.             There was a bag here,             my poop came out in it.
He hands me two sacks.             I have medicine.             I don’t know how to take it.             Can you show me?

Broken, still             a bed              and three meals             are not             enough.
In this city              of 900,000 souls             the are 10 respite beds              for those             un-homed.
Ten beds             are not             enough.


The Lord hears the cry                         of the poor.
And, as his people,             so should we.
So too, should we attend             to their song.

Last week, I fell  hard on              unforgiving asphalt.
And could only sit bleeding / stunned             searching for breath.
A woman I did not know, a woman who owns nothing           but her body        and the contents of the pack she carries
Rushed to my side             and                         raised me up.

Ken Wears Pajama Pants

Ken wears pajama pants
            printed with comic book heroes             and a knee-length blue duster             emblazoned               with a Texaco star.
And always, a smile.
More, he owns a chessboard.
Today he shows me a series of newspaper cuttings protected  by folded cardboard taped into             a sleeve.
Bobby Fischer chess games.
He beams.
“You know, they give you the opening gambit                                 and the last move.             The puzzle              is to figure out             how to get             to that last             move.
            And you know,             most of the time        I can!"

Ken's photo is used here with his permission and blessing.

She Wanted to be a Nun

Poison ivy doesn’t suit her
It doesn’t grow  in Liberia
how was she to know
when the police drove  her from the sidewalk              and backed                         her into the bushes
Later arms covered with blisters the size of pea-hen eggs 
she doesn’t complain
just asks for help in wrapping the gauze  around her wrists
Warmed by her sweetness, I wished her God’s speed in  finding              housing
Oh, no, she said my work is with the poor

Giving Back

Virgil brings me one of his careful & crumpled multi-colored notes.
It’s a reference for a movie he thinks I’d like to watch. Paramedics After Dark “It takes place in the city of  Detroit America 1999 year.”
He has a curious mind that  collects a magpie’s store  of facts. Most of them pertain to HomeLessness in our city. Empirically studied, notes taken on the heart.
In another world  where  he didn’t have to struggle  for education,              for literacy itself against poverty and learning                                     disabilities he is a respected historian speaking to raised and expectant faces
instead of to this old nurse.

The Neighbors

Their stories are not mine to share.
But, our moments   together

LeDon Sits

LeDon sits
with a thump. 
He scrolls through his phone
to show me  a phrase:
Racial Equality
He sounds it out. “What that mean?”
It means everyone    should be treated equally and with respect regardless of the color of their skin.
“That’s what I thought. Do you believe that?”
I do.
He shakes his head   —
“It’ll never happen.”