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I sit cross-legged on the curb
with my friends, my street family,
panhandlers, alcoholics, addicts.
We talk about the past, mostly;
although, trials of the moment
sometimes come to the surface:
who will go on a liquor run,
who got out of prison,
the problem of bed bugs,
an appearance at court,
a ticket for a liquor violation
or for jumping a bus.

Someone asks for a cigarette
a beer, a swig of sherry
or a combination of the three.
A joint is passed,
‘Don’t bogart it!’ someone says,
or ‘6 up’ if the cops are near.
We know that we’re looked down upon
both literally and figuratively.
We notice expressions
on the faces of passers-by:
fear, disgust, annoyance.
I won’t say it doesn’t bother me;
on the other hand, those passing by
are nothing to me, they’re entitled
to their opinions, as I am to mine.

I’ve learned a lot, sitting on the curb
a new language, friendship, acceptance,
compassion…
If I’m ever homeless, I have people to turn to
for food, a blanket, a place to sleep,
maybe couch surfing in a bug infested room,
or a piece of cardboard behind a dumpster.
I’ve got someone to take my back —
or my 6 o’clock — if needed,
as I would take theirs.
I’ve learned to appreciate these things
and the people who offer them.
It’s all they have in the world
and they offer them to me.

I hear of growing up
with abusive, alcoholic parents,
children molested, beaten, thrown out.
It’s no wonder where they are,
what they are, who they are.
Where they are is in a family that cares.
Who they are is individuals, not a designation.
What they are is human, sensitive, caring;
more like you, than you realize.
Most of all, they are my family.

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