The Man in the Last Pew

Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Homelessness

for the man with the same name as mine


It’s a little thing for me to live through these cards.

They show the places that make my mind smile—

places I’d live in if I knew magic, or didn’t have

the job of owning all of the dreams of my past.

Christmas cards are easier to live in. I’ve collected more

than 3,000 cards since 1985. The reds and the blues

that glitter have a different meaning when I

can put my hands on the edges of their frame.

People make me scratch my head. People take more

time to show off true colors. And people forget people

are not all hard. When in state’s hands, I thought

I would miss people, but the medicine made me

only depend on the movies in my mind, scenes where

Mama sat in our living room, while I read how the words

to the Bible move in this life, without the worry

of her suffering. Suffering comes like daylight

into my bedroom, now, taking me out of the darkness,

into creaky pews of Mission Church on Pearl Street.

I bring with me Mama memories—the birthday

and Christmas cards I hand out to the worn faces

I have come to smile at in my come back to the world.

I could be a mad dog about it all, but I have food, the

warmth of my apartment, and how God put new

light in my head. The new moved out the old,

and no institution will tie down my dreams, now.  I accept

all my nightmares, and all bright daylight shining too.


—by Curtis L. Crisler

This story originally appeared in Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Lutheran Social Services and the Office of the Mayor in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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