open house

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: Integrity House
Image: Integrity House

The house is
called
        Integrity.

(To Integrity
come
young men/women
free-willed but anxious
off the streets
fleeing
own desire for
speed  pot  junk.)

The bright-faced
youngsters who
welcome us to
their Open House
show us
proudly how
they have
redeemed discards
resurrected
dingy rooms with
bright paint
earnest sweat
determination.

We
admire ingenuity
neatness and order
listen
to a rock combo
sample a
home-baked cake.
My mind
goes back
to an alley by a movie theatre
I used to pass on my
way to work early mornings.
Four junkies
three men and a woman
met there to wait
to wait shivering
        for a fix.
They were gaunt
unbelievably gaunt
sucked dry
like the pale
skins of cockroaches in a
neglected cupboard.

The quietly pleasant
young man who
has been showing us
around
        Integrity
presses my hand
saying,
        “Goodbye.
Thank you for coming.”

My eyes are
suddenly
tight and hot
with tears.
For that instant
my hope for him
burns
burns as fiercely as
ever
his own must have.

For almost half a century Newark’s Integrity House has facilitated recovery from substance abuse and addiction, making its home in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Integrity House was only a few years old when Margaret Tsuda paid a visit and wrote this poem, published in her 1972 collection Cry Love Aloud.

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