Commentary: In Honor and Remembrance of Daniel Thompson

By Dennis J. Kucinich

U.S. House of Representatives

     Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor and remembrance of Daniel Thompson, Poet Laureate of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Daniel Thompson passed away last week after a 2-year battle with cancer. Through his words as a poet and his deeds as a tireless advocate for the homeless, the hungry, and people on the streets, Daniels Thompson set an example for his community.

     Daniel’s public readings were held as often in jazz clubs, junkyards and jailhouses as they were in bookstores, cafes, and other ordinary venues. His poetry, often humorous and playful, conveyed messages about our times and inspired our thoughts and actions. He was a frequent contributor to the “Homeless Grapevine,” Cleveland’s monthly street newspaper sold by homeless vendors. His poem, “A New Beatitude,” was published in the March-April 2004 issue of the Grapevine:

Walking to starlight

In a dark season

I hear a new beatitude, America

Listen

Blessed are the homeless

For they shall inherit the street

The sidewalk, the bushes

The cold, cold ground

Whatever falls from heaven

Pennies of rain, of snow

Any spare change of weather

Day-old manna

The donut and the hole

The donut, the hole in the sock

In the sole of the shoe

And in the cold, cold ground

And O I almost forgot, America

This, too, from you

The cold eye of the stranger…

     But it was not just Daniel’s word, but also his deeds that will be missed. He frequently brought food and water to Cleveland’s homeless and he petitioned city and county officials to install public drinking fountains for people living on the streets. He marched with Martin Luther King in Chicago and as a freedom rider in the deep south in the early 1960s where he was targeted by an angry mob in North Carolina in 1961.

     Mr. Speaker and Colleagues, please join me in honor and remembrance of Daniel Thompson. Like other poets hailing from Cleveland such as Langston Hughes, Hart Crane, and d.a. levy, Daniel has a place in our community’s literary history. And as a citizen, Daniel Thompson will long be remembered for his advocacy, sympathy, and soul. But his presence on Cleveland’s streets will be sorely missed.

(Appearing in the Congressional Record of May 11, 2004)

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published July 2004 Issue 65B