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Market Street Mission

May 6, 2013



 AUDIO:     (click: hear the voice behind the words)


Market Street Mission


Mike died overnight at the Market Street Mission.


To be more precise,

they stuck a shiv somewhere into the seven true ribs,

costae verae,

probably between rib 3 and 4.


Quietly his warm red blood

spilled across the cold floor –

through the thin mattress

which he had returned to each night

for the last week.

A gray wool blanket matted frozen to his chest

when Sam tried to awake him that morning.


No one looked too hard for a murderer –

70 men had come and gone that evening and morning

and each was capable of this act when the spirits moved them.


The police were casual for the same reason.


70 suspects and 70 witnesses each with the same address:

This place – the Market Street Mission – yet no place.

None of them were in,         

literally and figuratively.


Even the innocent ones weren’t so innocent.

Few would be able to identify their first-name-only fellow travelers

despite the fact they shared the same haunts, day and night,

never really seeing each other.


As the medical examiner’s team lifted Mike onto the gurney

and loaded him into the black bag

something dropped from his clinched fist

which the officers should have discovered – if they cared to look.


Last night, as with every evening,

Mike slept clutching his Marworth medallion

just as he clutched his crucifix each evening as a young boy.


“Lord, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change –

The courage to change the things I can-

And the wisdom to know the difference.”, read the inscription. 


You see, no one freely chooses death when life and hope are an option.


Mike was a 5 timer –

Carrier, Alina Lodge, Caron and Marworth twice. –

The last time he got kicked out for wrapping himself in bandages

as would a sophomore in a college joke.


An airline pilot, he found the thread

that would weave his death in the Air Force in Afghanistan,

where, while burning off a field of mature Poppies

the aroma triggered a hidden gene he could not control –

later fed by the morphine administered to get him past the shrapnel.


Tonight his mother would cry again – but not over today’s death.

No one knew Mike’s last name

and with his last known address only: “Market Street Mission”,

they could not call her.

She had cried over his death a thousand times already,

the living passing away that took him.

She cried until the tears ran dry – and then she cried again.

A month later the Sergeant would find the fingerprint card

tossed aside in a stack of papers.

When submitted, it marked a hit

in the Department of Defense data base.

Someone notified his mother and dispatched a proper escort

with his Purple Heart,

which he had neglected to pick up, or tell anyone about.


The examiner’s attendant placed the Medallion back in his hand

and folded the fingers tightly.

With a little luck the coin would be overlooked and

he would be buried with it in the potter’s field.

When they exhumed the body at his mother’s request

her purple heart would shatter yet again

when the undertaker handed her

the medallion of hope Mike carried,

on the evening when all hope was finally snuffed out.


At 1 pm that afternoon Mr. KT awoke in the park 4 blocks away.

He casually ignored the blood on his hands.

He had seen it before, probably from scrounging around the

dumpster in back of a restaurant.


He stumbled to the water fountain, took a drink and began to scrub -

blood off his hands

and from his Marworth Medallion

which he had slept holding last night.


You see, no one freely chooses murder when life and hope

are an option.


When finished, he wondered what was for dinner that evening

at the Market Street Mission.


 Ray Brown

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Edie Angelo permalink
    March 1, 2009 4:56 am

    Really good! Really moving! Spent some time at Carrier and Alina Lodge myself, so I know it doesn’t work. Poor mike, Poor mr. KT…..until the recent economic disaster, market street mission was my favorite charity….I feel so guilty when i toss the letters in the garbage… it coed???

  2. Ray Brown permalink*
    March 1, 2009 11:30 am

    Thanks for reading. This piece does not come from personal knowledge of Market Street Mission. It was inspired by driving past the building facade on the same day I helped someone up off of the street at a poetry reading in Paterson. Like other works it was not intended to be description of the actual circumstances anywhere. I am glad you liked it, and appreciated the message. Thanks.

  3. September 11, 2009 1:23 pm

    nice one ray,
    caught me from the first three lines. what a great start for a poem..

  4. Harry Keyishian permalink
    March 25, 2011 12:11 pm

    Good one, Ray. Who mourns these guys (and recalls their lives)? Why poetry lives.

  5. March 25, 2011 12:30 pm

    A sad but all too familiar story of the lives of many…thanks for this one Ray.

  6. Helen permalink
    March 29, 2011 2:13 pm

    This story really hit home and is the reason why my Auntie Annie choose to live her life on the streets of Yorkville,N.Y.C. her fate came one night when the building’s heat went off and she froze to death in back of the hallway. she was clutching a pint of mad dog 20/20 God Bless you!!!

  7. Ray Brown permalink*
    March 29, 2011 3:06 pm

    thank you for reading – and appreciating the poem. I am so sorry about the sorrow that your Aunt and your family went through .


  1. Finding Poems « Poetry by Ray Brown

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