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In Illuminated Poems, Eric Drooker illustrates this Allen Ginsberg songlet with a heartbreaking wordless six-panel comic of a ragged beggar being ignored by passersby on a street corner. The expression on his increasingly skeletal face becomes more desperate and pathetic with each frame, until finally he is rendered all but invisible behind a crowd of anonymous pedestrian traffic.

I know I've been guilty of ignoring panhandlers from time to time, but I've also played the game of trying to make eye contact with total strangers on busy streets. It's hard enough to get through to people as a young white woman of average dress, let alone through the social stigma of homelessness. So for me that's what this poem is about. Allen Ginsberg was a very wise man: the change he refers to in the second stanza is less about monetary charity than a much-needed shift in attitudes and awareness.

I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place
Where I was lost alone
Folk looked right through me into space
And passed with eyes of stone

O homeless hand on many a street
Accept this change from me
A friendly smile or word is sweet
As fearless charity.

Woe workingman who hears the cry
And cannot spare a dime
Nor look into a homeless eye
Afraid to give the time

So rich or poor no gold to talk
A smile on your face
The homeless ones where you may walk
Receive amazing grace

I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place
Where I was lost alone
Folk looked right through me into space
And passed with eyes of stone

Allen Ginsberg, 4/2/94

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