Paul Von Kempf, 1944—2006
From Paul’s Real Change Vendor Profile December 13, 2001:
Earlier this year, standing outside the View Ridge PCC selling Real Change, and feeling a little bit sorry for himself, Paul Von Kempf, Jr., began to write a poem. “I was in a lot of pain, and wanted to learn how to express it,” he recalls. “I have a lot of ideas that lie behind the self-pity; if I get rid of it, I can get to those ideas.”
Paul sees the poem, “Standing with Dignity,” as a capstone to a life he could put down in the same style. He followed that poem with a second one, recalling a moment in his childhood, called “Dragonfly Pond.” Now, he’s going to put down his own autobiography in verse.
That epic would take place mostly in Seattle, where Paul’s lived and worked odd jobs since 1967. He helped solicit funds for the non-profit First Avenue Service Center when it opened in the early ’70s, by telling his story to congregations. For a while, he made his living remodeling houses in the U-District. His boss owned a local ice cream parlor, and struck a deal: Paul would make 50 cents an hour plus all the ice cream he could eat. The deal was soon modified, once Paul’s diet made too big a dent in the inventory. After paying for rent at a local hotel, “it was all I could afford” to eat, he said.
Standing with Dignity
Standing here with dignity waiting through all kinds of weather selling Real Change Newspaper
Waiting for those smiling eyes hopeful wanting to be helpful to say paper please
Can you see that your generosity is appreciated?
Standing here with dignity I see another kind of eyes
Cold cruel and full of contempt
Walking past me without seeing
Taking the long way around
Can you see my pain?
Do I jerk you out of your cocoon,when I say hello?
do I jerk you back to reality?
Standing here with dignity I have time to reflect on why
I am selling Real Change Newspaper
In another time and another place I have had several jobs
I have lost them to accident, illness, disease or my bigshot ideas
Society deals harshly with people who have bigshot ideas
where is the forgiveness?
today I am standing here with dignity selling Real Change Newspaper
Waiting for those smiling eyes to say paper please
I hope you can see my gratitude for your generosity.
© June 6, 2001 Paul von Kempf, JR.
Paul wrote much more, became a member of StreetWrites, was published several times in Real Change, joined the Real Change Editorial Committee, and created his own website where he not only posted his own material, he also posted the works of his friends and celebrated others. He self-published two books of poetry that can still be found listed at Amazon.
Paul’s Leaf is located at Real Change.
Featured Leaf April 2013