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Homeless people who take part in a writing workshop at the Clergy Coalition Shelter for the Homeless in Hoboken, N.J., are the authors of the poems selected for this week.


It would be so damn cool to live underground
Where no liquor store, gun runner or dope dealer can be found
No electricity, no sunlight to brighten your day
Just the dim lights of candles to show you the way
No worrying about gung-ho police, or crossing the street
No sense of direction, you just follow your feet
No more bullshit government, or the president’s lies
You just go from tunnel to tunnel as time flies
And what do you do when you come to a dead end?
It’s simple, you just turn around and start the same process over again
All this sounds weird, and you wonder where it will stop
But soon as your ass get hungry, you’ll find your way to the top
I guess some people say living underground is real cool
But if you think you can do it without coming to the top
You are the world’s biggest damn fool.

-- Robert Leech

Beneath the Surface

Hoboken is a city of beauty and at night it is
a city of lights. Beneath all the beauty and
lights it is a city full of people who are
striving to survive, who have lost all hope
with the system and only find strength in
those who can relate or those who are in the
same situation or predicament and find
comfort in knowing that they are not alone
no matter how lost, lonely or forgotten they may be.

-- Renee

This Hand Protected from all Harm

This hand helped take care of four kids of
my own, five grandkids and their mothers.
It also provided for them as they grew up, it
protected them from all harm and also
helped them understand what it meant to
have some kind of training for the future.

-- James M.

Please Hear Me

Fear of not being understood
That’s really not good
Being misunderstood
Means one thing
And the things seen as another
Is the worst thing -- to me
Please hear me -- my sister
And my brother

-- Elizabeth

Mama’s Hands, Father’s Necklace

What can I say? Momma’s hands were full
of talent. She made biscuits delicious with
them. She shelled peas, washed, sorted
beans with them and raising three sometimes
hardheaded boys by herself. If you messed
up bad enough she could use her hands to
knock you into next week. Her hands gave
us an allowance. Not on a regular basis but
pretty regular -- when she could. Her hands
opened our report cards and trembled with
anger when she got hurt or mad. One time
my live-away father came over and they
were arguing about something he did. They
were in the bathroom and he punched her
hard in the eye. We didn’t see it cause we
were on the steps. The toilet seat was broke
and loose. She took those hands and
wrapped the toilet seat around his neck. He
ran out of the house like that. Everyone saw
it and laughed.

-- Gary Evans

Leaving My Seat

As I walk through the city of Hoboken my
spirit is lifted by the fast pace of
professionals racing off to their careers, the
beautiful shops and restaurants that light up
Washington Street. There are plenty of
churches, delis and the great aroma of all
different types of food. However, I also see
the men in the blue and white cars with
their blue and white suits waiting for me to
take a seat at the train stations, the bus stop,
restaurants, the book stores, waiting to tell
me to leave my seat!!

-- Michael Lawrence


I am heavily laden with cares and woes
Too many to count on my fingers and toes

-- R.G.

Making the Transition

My best learning experience was making the
transition from being taken care of to taking care
of myself. People change when they can use you to
get what you have. When you give more, people
take kindness for weakness. You’ve got to
understand yourself and your life. Keep your eyes
on your opponent at all times.

-- “Professor”


Who Am I? Your sister or brother, your
Mother or father, your daughter or your son.
I am homeless. Black or white, red or
brown, I walk the streets all day looking
just to make it. Through the day people look
at me and stand back to their friends and
talk about me, about how I look and how I
smell, never knowing the real person that is
inside of me. As you watch your TV and
play your tapes, I try to stay warm on very
cold days. When you are warm in your
home, I am homeless. As you sleep at night
in your nice warm bed I am trying to sleep
anywhere I can: rooftops and doorways,
park benches and so on.

-- “Homeless”

Children of the World

Children of the world today
See how they play every way
Growing ghetto poor and stay
Wealthy in their own sweet way
Children of the world today
Jumping rope play their own sweet day
Let us pray in our only way
Let us be what was today

-- Gerome Barksdale


… help me sometimes when I’m broke. It’s
embarrassing when I drop them, like today
from my wallet. I did pick up. I don’t care if
any drop when it’s money. Far back 1988/89
I count 75 pennies and I buy milk for my
daughter. I was pregnant with my son and
have a little girl one year and three months.
Pennies is how I get to go. I pick up where I
see them on the street or anywhere. Pennies
make lots of cents.

-- Regina G. Stickle

Troubles, Worries, Work

Moving day. It always scared me to death.
Troubles, worries, work. It includes
everything to make me crazy. Some people
like it, but not me. There is always some
hope but what are hopes? Hopes bring
troubles, worries, work, and they include
everything to make me crazy. Some people
like it, but not me. I would like not to move.
I would like to stay, because actually days
are not moving. There are no moving days.
Time stays. We move. I would like to stay
not to move.

-- Madmax

Having Gone Through It Before

Well, sometimes it’s hard to ask for help
when you have been through it before.
Sometimes I can hit myself in the head when
someone has to tell me what to do, how to
do it and when. Sometimes it really sucks.
But the pain and running made me put up
with what I have to do to get back on the
right track and turn my life back around.
After going into treatment for fourteen
inside and six months in a halfway house,
staying clean for six and half years you
would think I would learn.

-- Big Barry

Loud and Quiet

I’m mad as anything
I want nothing more
Than to yell as loud as thunder
Yet I keep as quiet as a snowfall

-- M. Tufano

Use the links below to read previous Poetry pages. Use your browser's Back button to return to this page.

1999 in POETRY

2000 in POETRY

National Catholic Reporter, February 25, 2000