I have an image of my house, and that is the only house I have right now, because I am a homeless man, but only one of many homeless men and homeless women. In a city that is no longer a city. And though I know that no home is permanent, it is something different when that is no longer a spiritual metaphor you read in a book, but a felt reality, when the image pump turns an abstraction into a stabbing pain in the heart.

Homelessness is something different and true, and it has been felt before by many people, felt deeply by them every day. We live in a world, and a nation, of far too many homeless people, and I have done too little about it. So I am just one of many, and not the worse off either, but still, it is my home and my image and I am entitled to it. It doesn't cost anyone anything for me to be carrying my home with me in my heart.

It is one thing to miss a house. It is another thing to miss a whole city.

There is so much room in the heart--enough room not just for my home, but for a whole city that is going under, that is overwhelmed, inundated. Right now, the city of New Orleans is an image in the hearts of those of us who love it, because the reality of the city is too terrible to bear with our eyes.

And the heart is a pump too.

I am homeless, but I am one of the lucky ones. I am not abandoned on I-10 while politicians talk and generals dither. I am not lying in the hot sun with children dying in my arms. I am not an old, sick woman. I am not poor or black; I do not live in the part of town that is underwater. I live in the high part of town. I am separated from them.

New Orleans is a town of levees and water. The levees are man-made hills of clay, artificial banks. They are separation, and privilege, and holding back, but water is the truth of our common humanity, water is our common element. We all need water and we are water, and our separateness is an illusion that thirst obliterates immediately.

The speaker of the House of Representatives (I do not even want to write his name), said New Orleans was not worth saving. I do not know what sort of person could say this at a time like this. For some people, I suppose New Orleans is a black city, a poor city, even a sinful city. For all I know, for some people New Orleans is images of Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras, though the truth is, Bourbon Street is not New Orleans; it is much more the shadow of conventioneers from Ohio and Illinois, its tawdriness reflects who they are and what they desire.

To some who do not understand what New Orleans means--what gift it has given the world, and given all of us in America--for those people who don't know any better, New Orleans is a shadow of this country, but to me New Orleans is the heart.

And if we don't save New Orleans, we have lost our heart completely.

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