Robbie Gamble

 

Dorothy Day

You were two years dead, your dentures
still in a bedside mug when I arrived,
stepping off the Ivy League escalator
to detour down the preferential option
for the poor: St Joseph’s House of Hospitality,
Lower East Side. How to live in the wake
of a Great Soul, an acrid incense lingering
in sour homeless sweat, in burnt lentil soup,
wafting all the way to heaven up through
tenement fire escapes. In the evening,
after soupline, the serving table scrubbed
and redressed as altar, wine consecrated
in a coffee cup; we are all of one body,
all of us, the educated, the inebriated,
the lice-ridden, the skeptical. I studied you,
line and verse, in back-issue newsprint:
We have all known the long loneliness,
you wrote(Why yes I have),  and, the only
solution is love (“a harsh and dreadful thing,”
you called it) andthat, in the end, love comes
with community. I learned this, smoke
and trace and ash from you, among
new friends, broken and saintly, winding
hand-in-hand, the strange way home.