Group Home

I am sitting in a cold living room:
three worn sofas, one leg missing from one of them,
with imitation velvet scenes on three of the four walls.
John, Martin and Bob look out across the room,
with starts and stripes against their backs
as the evening's snow creeps through the cheap oak window frames.

A torn carpet,
some few paper backs
make the rest of the backdrop
for the noises of this Friday night.

Marilyn and Bear are talking to Delfino,
who quit his job one week ago;
his glue-dulled brain whines through the locked door.

Downstairs, the washing machine eats away at its own gears,
as some resident's jeans, bleached beyond belief,
send up a lysoled odor, as strong as the metaled whirl.

In the TV room,
eight residents huddle around a color TV screen
as a cartoon character,
a comic strip character
pulses between commercials in the darkened room.

They are angry - these residents -
for they are on restriction,
the free time,
the weekend passes taken from them these last few days.

Two were high (at least),
their red eyes calling to hawkeyed counselors,
"See me, I'm high!"
Three quit jobs (or were fired)
or did not understand some message,
so girls,
     the Arcade
are out of bounds
and the residents are trapped
,              feel trapped,
             stay trapped
in this house called Trilogy.

They are trapped by more than rules and hawkeyed counselors;
the early lessons of their early pasts hold them,
                 most of them,
in some place where they can blame others:
mothers, sisters,
brothers -
Mean cops,
coaches all conspire to hold them here on a March night
while snow falls in the streets
that have been filled with sunlight all this week.

When they can say, "I did it,"
whatever the "it" is tonight;
when they can say
"I am responsible for my actions"
and understand inside what such a simple phrase can mean;
when they can take punishment
and how they rail against that word
when they can look inside themselves,
see themselves,
accept themselves,
move on,
then the winter's snow will melt,
that bondage cease,
and in their life's springtime,
come to know some peace.

(Denver, CO 1978)

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