There are Saints in the City (for Ralph Delaney)

There are saints in the city
Moving through the streets
Through sadness & shadow
No fiery chariot from the sky
Only an ordinary beat-up station wagon
Earthbound, moving toward the fires
Along the picket line at Greyhound
Where the homeless joining hands with strikers
Keep warm, keep watch, keep it together
Till out of the ordinary
No miracle of doves bringing peace
But carte blanche come love’s daily bread
As light as a bird in the hand
These are the saints who use the pot
That didn’t melt to make the soup
To take to the heart of the city
There at Public Square in the shadow of the Tower
Amid the rats, the abatements, the greed
They’ve weathered the cold midnight air
Yes, there are saints in the city
Moving through sadness & shadow
Through the projects with crayons & food
Looking, listening for beauty
For the art of the people
For the poetry of the soul, fired up
Hungering in poverty for the light of justice
How ironic, Ralph
In The Plain Dealer’s headline
You’re labeled a social worker
How often they
Along with administrators
Police, public officials
Hold attitudes that epitomize
An insensitivity toward the poor
That dehumanized spirit
You sought to overcome
They also call you
A friend of the poor
But if everyday
You eat with the poor
Sleep with the poor, walk
And talk, breathe with the poor
You are the poor, friendly or not
Come out of your coma, Ralph
Speak to us. We know if you could
Your first words would forgive
Your enemies and those who beat you
You’d wish to teach them to fight
Like Gandhi & King
Ralph, this may not be the right time
But we confess . . . you often bore us
With your constant talk about the poor
In jail, on the street, in the projects
Where you work, where you live
But Ralph, come back, bore us again
And this time, forgive your friends

Daniel Thompson

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One thought on “There are Saints in the City (for Ralph Delaney)

  1. Mike Sexton says:

    Ralph was my Uncle, and I am so, so upset that I did not get a chance to speak with Thompson while he was still alive. This poem brought tears to my eyes – that was the man I knew… Ralph was obsessed with loving the unloved and helping the helpless.

    And this is the most important thing – he planted seeds… he was a gardener at heart, really. Ralph planted these seeds in you and me (reader), and don’t disgrace his memory by letting the seed die. Do something. Do not do it for Ralph – he wouldn’t want or ask for that – do it for the unloved, for the helpless.

    Today, I teach middle school. I reach to the one who hates school, and I show them a tiny secret that Ralph showed me when I was five – that hateful child is loved, is special, and has the capacity to create beautiful things that will lift humanity instead of crushing and killing it on a sidewalk…

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