dVerse — Poetics — Lonely Strangers

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Works by Category - Hazy works ⋆ Boss | Art

The first time I saw him was in the 90’s, when I worked as a receptionist at the health department. He was a little man with white hair and a serious expression. He said he’d cut his leg and needed medical treatment. He didn’t know that the health department only treated Sexually Transmitted Infections, dispersed birth control, and gave immunizations. I said we couldn’t help him but directed him to the emergency department of the hospital across the street.

The next time I saw him, he was walking down the busy avenue I used to live on, just a few blocks from my house. He had a pronounced limp. He lived in a small addition attached to a carpet remnant store. He had his own entrance. I saw him frequently over the years, always alone, always somber, shoveling or sweeping the small section of sidewalk he claimed as his own.

His limp worsened over time, until he rocked side to side with each step. I’ve wondered a million times whether he ever walked over to the the emergency department, and if he did was he turned away? I wondered why he was so alone. I don’t remember the last time I saw him.

Lonely on the fringe,
neighbors live separate lives
forever strangers.

 

top image by Boss

My offering is a combination of #3 and #4. I’m not sure why I chose them. I hadn’t thought about that little man for years, but he arrived unbidden as I pondered what it’s like living on the fringe.

I am today’s host of dVerse‘ Poetics. I say:
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to choose one of these paths:
1. Write a poem using the word edge;
2. Write a poem that keeps Millikin’s question above in mind;
3. Write a poem using the word fringe;
4. Write a poem from the fringe, however you define it.
Whatever you choose, please indicate your choice # somewhere on your post.
As a bonus challenge, please tell why you chose the one you did.

51 Comments Add yours

  1. kim881 says:

    Mine seems to be a combination of #3 and #4 too, Lisa! This is a good prompt for a haibun. I love the way you brought the man to life with your description. The haiku is very touching and, sadly, true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Many thanks, Kim. My heart went out to him and even today I wonder why I never reached out to him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can only imagine how it must be to live like that, the tragedy is that there might have been very few that ever noticed him…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Bjorn that’s exactly what it seemed like, he was so alone.

      Like

  3. Ingrid says:

    My heart went out to this poor character, shuffling along on the fringes of life! I hope he didn’t end his days alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      😦 I hope so too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. merrildsmith says:

    I wasn’t sure if we could choose more than one option.
    This is so sad. You’ve written a very vivid and poignant piece. I wonder now what happened to him, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      You can write to one, some, or all, Merril 🙂 Yes, I do too.

      Like

  5. It breaks my heart how easily some people seem to just slip out of society, often through no fault of their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Yes, too often 😦

      Like

  6. Ron. says:

    This guy is so real. A perfectly executed haibun, Lisa. Congrats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you, Ron. I hope he’s still out there somewhere, but no longer alone.

      Like

  7. Beverly Crawford says:

    What a heart-rending tale. I wonder how often we pass by someone on the fringe without ever recognizing them and offering recognition;. how many such stories are to be told in any homeless camp.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you, Beverly. I’m guessing there are a lot of them. If I hadn’t seen him that day in the health department I’m sure I never would have noticed him on the street.

      Like

  8. That’s really sad. The way you described him, I can really imagine it, Lisa

    Yours,
    David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thanks, David.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. robtkistner says:

    Lisa, this is hauntingly beautiful, and touchingly sad Lisa — great write my friend… and the halku, excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you, Rob

      Like

  10. Sadje says:

    What a sad story Li. You’re so right, we are mostly cut off from people around us. Everyone is too busy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. calmkate says:

    so deeply sad, they are the type of people I try to engage with … homeless sleeping rough, the beggars in India. Sometimes a smile or wave really makes their day. Others are up for a chat …

    you painted his life so poignantly Lisa, well done

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Kate, bless your heart for reaching out to anyone who needs a connection that you come across.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. calmkate says:

        think I’ve done it since I was born, often feel more comfortable with the fringe dwellers than mainstream

        Liked by 1 person

  12. rothpoetry says:

    A great Haibun Lisa! The story is so heart wrenching, and your haiku really socks it to us in the last line! Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Dwight thank you

      Liked by 1 person

  13. memadtwo says:

    We all have lived too many of these parallel lives. Sad and beautiful all at once. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    Some people just lock themselves up from the world. I hope he found some happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. lynn__ says:

    Your haibun moves our hearts, Lisa, for this stranger on the fringe…great post and prompt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Lynn, thank you very much. I hope he can feel that goodwill energy, wherever he is 🙂 ❤

      Like

  16. I know this is off topic for this post but I am also a Taoist and am excited to read tao inspired art.

    Like

  17. Misky says:

    This pandemic has exposed a lot of vulnerable people to the harshness of living on the fringe, or the edge (both terms fit). A man of indeterminate age who always sat outside the supermarket, is no longer there. I’m not sure if he’s still with us or not. This is a lovely poem, Lisa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Your comment is heartfelt. So many. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Xan says:

    What a powerful and moving haibun, and such an indictment that our society doesn’t see the fringes very clearly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you, and I wish it wasn’t so.

      Like

  19. Lisa, what a heart wrenching tale nee a real life story. The character seems so real. I am sure you still feel the pain of not reaching out to him. Many of us do. Superbly executes story__ a great haibun you have written. Many congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Neel, thank you. Yes, I still feel his loneliness and guilt for not reaching out, at first and later.

      Like

    2. msjadeli says:

      Neel, I just tried to open your poem’s link at Mr. Linky and it opened to basically a blank page. Do you want to try to re-link it?

      Like

  20. I felt this in my heart Lisa. Beautiful and touching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you very much.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  21. kaykuala h says:

    A very touching account Jade. One often wonders what lives these sort of forgotten persons had before. They could be anywhere along the spectrum of rich or poor or privileged or otherwise. Thanks for a wonderful prompt, Ma’am!

    Hank

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Hank thank you for your insightful comment. Yes, they could be anyone, everyone, in a particular convergence of circumstances. You are most welcome.

      Like

  22. lillian says:

    This has such a sadness to it. Your words depict desolation and loneliness in an almost visceral fashion. The haiku is the perfect complement to the prose for this haibun. It’s interesting. When we lived in Iowa we always knew our neighbors….even when we lived in the country. Doors were kept unlocked. As a young mom I was out on the sidewalk and front yard with my two little ones as were the neighbor women on either side of me. In the house I grew up in on a dead-end street, there were only 8 houses. And although the owners were of different generations and ages, every summer they had a “block party” and blocked off the entrance to the street, put up picnic tables in the street and everyone came. The adults (again, of different ages) had halloween and Christmas parties too. So very different for us now living on the 7th floor of a high-rise in Boston. I know only 2 other “doors” by name — there are 16 condos on each floor…our doors open to the common hallway; in the middle of the hallway are 3 elevators and the “trash door”. These are neighbors…but I rarely even see them even though we literally live on the same floor. How different from our life in Iowa. So the haiku at the end resonates with me. Very different from this gentleman you describe as I don’t believe anyone on our floor lives on the “fringes” yet we don’t connect either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Lillian, my apologies for the late response, I just found your comment in my spam folder. Thank you very much for your lovely comment, and times have changed for sure. Up to the age of 10 I lived with both of my parents and they knew many of the neighbors on both sides of the street on our block but were never what you would call neighborly with them except for the ones on either side of us. When my folks divorced my mom and us kids moved to a very different neighborhood; one that was filled with kids our age. Us kids became friends with the kids in a 2-block square. Not so my mom and new stepdad. Our family was the one most likely to get CPS called on them but back in the day neighbors didn’t do that. When mom, stepdad, and family moved out to a rural community (I was 16) I stayed in town with my dad. My mom and stepdad got to know pretty much everybody in the community, at least the ones who frequented the small town’s bar as my mom was the main bartender down there for years. I moved out to that community the next year but then moved back to my home town a few years later.

      Sorry people are not as neighborly in the condos. Maybe when the pandemic lightens up and everyone is vaccinated things will get more friendly.

      Like

  23. There are so many like this on the fringe. “neighbors live separate lives
    forever strangers” is so true. You relate this well, Lisa.

    And thank you for the prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you and you’re welcome, Ken.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Helen Dehner says:

    This breaks my heart …. beautifully presented to your reader.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Helen, thank you much.

      Like

  25. Zelda Rene says:

    Lonely on the fringe,
    neighbors live separate lives
    forever strangers.

    Painfully true, elegantly penned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thank you, Zelda.

      Like

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