The Man of Steal

by | Oct 22, 2019

By Bob Houghtaling

A good thief is hard to come by. While the world is full of people who take our possessions, few are able to steal in ways that we eventually thank them for it. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi are a sampling of those who seek much more than worldly belongings. This poem, The Thief’s Wake, is simply the tale of a man who broke into many lives, attempting to abscond with things beyond riches. His efforts remind us of the real crimes happening every day. Let us pray for the thieves who steal our hearts. They give us so very much.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods … and paid a heavy price.

The Thief’s Wake

The line outside the funeral home
Had many standing on their feet
Far out past the parking lot
And to a nearby street. 

Folks had come from miles away
In respectful grief –
Paying homage to this dangerous man
Most knew as a thief.

As the parade inched toward the casket
People chatted along the way –
While some didn’t know him
All had much to say.

He annoyed them during his lifetime
By living a life of crime
Stealing oh so many things
But never taking a dime. 

They spoke of his activities
And things he wished to steal –
Many loved him for it
Because nothing was more real. 

He never took their purses
Or absconded with fine jewels
In fact no law was broken
The thief simply broke the rules.

What did he take then
And why are they all here?
The thief stole so much more
Than things we think are dear.

After hours of shuffling
At a glacial pace
All of those with patience
Saw the calm thief’s face.

He rested with a smile
Within a simple box –
Giving off the countenance
Of a wise old fox.

And everyone who witnessed
His slumber so sublime –
Now finally understood
‘twas they that took to crime.

Theirs was of indifference
His was of belief –
The things they all worshipped
Brought little or no relief.

His crime was of meaning
And trying to steal the hearts
Of those who had forgotten
That which keeps us apart.

The masses labeled him a reprobate
But was them who broke the law
For having no time for the sickly
Lonely and the poor.

Our thief tried to steal moments
Getting people to reflect –
Forgotten while still breathing
He now earned great respect.

Friends then stood before him
Hoping he’s not gone.
Staring at his quietness
It’s puerility we must mourn. 

Many would next say a prayer
Asking if he’d forgive
Something he had no power for –
They simply had to live.

With our eyes closed tightly
In that solemn air
Came forth a heavenly message –
“Steal time to simply care

Steal time for a neighbor
Steal time to lend a hand
Steal time to feed the hungry
Steal time for your fellow man.”

In silence we reflected
On words without a sound –
Spoken from a soulful place
With powerful resound.

On the funeral Sunday
A lesson it was taught
Without official charges
The thief still should be caught.

Soon the gathering departed
But something else was revealed –
That man’s need for each other
cannot be concealed.

The line long since dwindled
But imbedded is the belief
That the world was a better place
For the presence of the thief. 

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program.


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