by Lauren Schmidt

“[Prosecutor Erik Hasselman] said the two, who shared a nearby apartment, apparently found Bishop sleeping beneath a tree, then kicked and beat him so severely that Bishop suffered twenty-three separate rib fractures and bleeding in his brain. His nose and an eye socket were also broken, and his ears were torn and bleeding, the prosecutor said.” --The Register Guard, December 23, 2009

The next morning, a group of Blues bent over me,
flashed light into my eyes, held two rubbered fingers to my neck.
It was morning when they found me in the park.
Sure don’t know what I could’ve looked like laying there—
blood glued to my lips and eyes, my face black from soot
and scab, smashed so I’m a mess that don’t look like me no more:
Pac-Man, a man nobody ever knew before.

Maybe the papers’ll say I was a good man, maybe even wise.
Maybe the papers’ll say everybody liked me.
The papers’ll tell the world I didn’t fight
back which only made them hit me harder.
I could feel my face change shape, like the Willamette riverbed.

I wish those boys’d cleaned me up before morning came.
Their hands were wet and clean when they came back
to take my things. One pinched my wrist and I shook
and twitched, but they didn’t stay. Such a shame to be left
like that—left a bloody mess like that—the way not having
a home feels like a shame till it doesn’t anymore.

Editor’s Note: This poem is part of a full-length collection of poetry based on the poet’s experience volunteering at a homeless kitchen, The Dining Room, in Eugene, Oregon, where several hate crimes occur each year against homeless men. The collection, Psalms of The Dining Room, is due out next year. The collection draws attention to an otherwise silenced problem: hate crimes against homeless victims.

Lauren Schmidt’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Progressive, Alaska Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, Rattle, Nimrod, Fifth Wednesday Journal,  Ekphrasis Journal, Wicked Alice and other journals. Her poems have been selected as finalists for the 2008 and 2009 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Dancing Girl Press Chapbook Contest. Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize and the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor. In 2011, she was nominated for the Best New Poets Anthology. Her chapbook, The Voodoo Doll Parade (Main Street Rag), was selected as part of the 2011 Author’s Choice Chapbooks Series. Her second chapbook, Because Big Boobies Are Necessary (Amsterdam Press), and her first full-length collection, Psalms of The Dining Room (Wipf & Stock) are both forthcoming. Lauren Schmidt teaches writing at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey.