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If He is the Homeless

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Then we are the heartless
His eyes, cimmerian pools
Conscious waters we dare not tread
His words, rendered null and void
And so he holds the sign
Of failure, defined
As if guilty of existence
Beaten by this steel wool system
Of surface scratchers
Mirrored and jagged
Buffing them up
To send them back out

Dead people live on this street
Like the gray of pigeons, pecking
For rations of sweet sanity
Between dagger eyes
And swift kicks
Tears siphoned back from the edge
Hold more truth than sorrow
Tiny little diamonds
Of the highest clarity

Squinting, scanning for prospects
The sun exposes his lines
A tally of  tragedies
His glance, as empty as pockets
Races past the la-de-da
Seeking one heart, unbiased
One heart that drops the dollar
Without assuming it’s next exchange
And as it free falls to the pavement
He struggles to remember
How it felt to not be treated
Like a modern day leper





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37 responses »

  1. This is stunning: “His eyes, cimmerian pools”

    The whole thing is a masterpiece. Really incredible work.

  2. Sadly I have seen them around the Toronto streets, sitting in one corner or sleeping at the sidewalk ~ I specially like the way you described him here:

    A tally of tragedies
    His glance, as empty as pockets

  3. I feel great compassion and benevolence in your words for these outcast of our society, Mish. It seems our society struggles mightily with this inhumane issue.

  4. Mish, this is a powerful poem. I don’t come across many street people out here in the country but I’m always shocked when I go to London. You’ve really captured the despair in ‘His eyes, cimmerian pools / Conscious waters we dare not tread’ and ‘Dead people live on this street /
    Like the gray of pigeons, pecking / For rations of sweet sanity’.

    I also like: ‘The sun exposes his lines / A tally of tragedies’.

  5. I agree with everyone. This is quite powerful, indeed.

  6. As if guilty of existence… what a phrase to describe him.. and how often we pass ashamed, as
    he is partly made of us… actually there are so many phrases that I love in this it’s hard to quote a single one… stunning work

  7. A very powerful poem and so many homeless suffer from mental health issues and fall between the cracks in the systems. We do not see many homeless here but when we lived in London I would buy them cups of tea or give them food and we had many heart-warming conversations. Human connection is everything and in some cases we were able to point them in the right direction for housing. Little acts of kindness go a long way.

  8. “As if guilty of existence”… Very potent imagery and turns of phrase, incisively describing the destitution and despair. I’ve been homeless and it’s unimaginably dehumanizing. Strangely enough, even with a complete change in circumstances to a home and creature comforts, that sense of marginalization, othering and displacement hasn’t gone away.

    • This breaks my heart, MW. I think so many are misinformed about the sources of homelessness, and how it could easily happen to them. I am recently unemployed and I can imagine the spiral that could take someone there. The dehumanizing you speak of is so unacceptable and I’m so sorry this has happened for you and others. It would definitely be hard to forget that type of scrutiny. Thank you for sharing so openly. Sending you love and hugs.

  9. Some really powerful lines here: the steel wool system
    that only serves to buff them up before sending them back out.
    Heartfelt yet restrained in its execution, and so all the more shattering.

  10. I’m agreeing with Nebraska J – this is a masterpiece of empathy and observation. Loved.

  11. I came back to read this again.. it is so beautifully written. And everyone’s comments here are just as beautiful.

  12. Beautiful Mish! As I went to vote yesterday, I wondered how many homeless people might be helped with all the senseless money spent on campaigning. Just all the street signs would be a good start. Love your empathy here.

  13. thoughtful and beautifully written. 🙂

  14. Too easy to see the beggars/homeless as pariahs and forget that these are people too…with their own hopes and wishes.

  15. Beautiful and poignant. I volunteer at a homeless shelter in Windsor every Monday. Recently, a man collapsed and died a block away. People wouldn’t stop to see if he was okay, we heard later. They thought he was just “another of the homeless”. He died in front of the apartment building he owned. So sad…

  16. Reminds me we are all created in Gods image, and that includes those who are homeless!

  17. This is brilliant and quite sad. You drew us into that man’s agony and reminded us all of the humanity we consistently fail.

  18. This is a very good poem. I wrote about my ow experience of being homeless in my poem Camelot. ( )


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