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Buffalo’s Claire Gomez was killed on Tuesday evening. We grieve as a city for her and we celebrate her. After spending time Wednesday evening among the people, flowers, and candles arrayed for her outside Utica Station, Hy reflected on his interactions with her over the years and on several other unique individuals he has known. This poem comes out of that and was performed at Healing Grounds Co-op’s open mic on the evening of Friday May 26, 2023.

Ours Is To Let Them Be

Let them be.
The pile of bags is pressed to the wall.
There is a man in there.
His jacket is caked with weeks of dirt.
He may not want to talk or move.
Let him be.

The woman walks on West Ferry,
Asking each driver for a dollar.
She may want you to listen.
She may be ready to assist.
She clearly wants a dollar, or five or ten.
If you lack resources to meet her yen,
Let her be.

The man’s broad smile is boyish on an old face.
Doing what he needs to meet his needs,
He goes into a repetitive trance.
Standing on rotting legs,
His existence and sweetness of compliments are miracles.
Raised in Dover and served on submarines,
Look away if you must,
But always let him be.

The woman lost her child, a decade ago.
Her bags and things may be scattered.
She seeks the elusive item,
Whose location she almost remembers.
She may cry or yell or be unaware of who is around.
Would you trade your shoes for her bare feet?
Let her be.

There go any of us,
but for grace, for luck,
for family support,
or for biology beyond human control
and possibly understanding.

Ours is neither to judge, to shoo, to harm,
nor to presumptively help.
Ours is to offer kindness and patience.
And, when a sincere request for support arrives,
Ours is to be ready to live into,
“Yes, you can count on me.”

Ours is to let them be.

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