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Friday, 11 December 2009



File:Solitude 2 - homeless.jpg

Gypsy abjects of the lost haunted nation
Of the streets, one and one and one and one
And one in a demography of monads--
Rejects of the better groomed classes
Who step over them as they politely beg
On the block anchored by Chez Panisse --
"They think they better than other people"
Quoth Sharon the sweet frizzy haired "three stroke"
Shattuck and Cedar beggar lady, late, hard
Put to reach her required fifty dollar
Nightly begging take -- sighing, looking a bit
Careworn despite her sweet smile, earnest
Lipstick and makeup -- Sharon's known, Sharon loves
One, loves everyone -- "The Good Lord don't put
On you nothing you can't take
" -- more exiting
Diners clutching big purses and bulging
Doggy bags stroll past ignoring her sad
Tired rehearsed entreaties, unregarding
Trying to appear not to notice yet not
Quite able to conceal the anxious corner-
Of-the-eye glance that distances them from
Her (and friend one) as one very bright solar
System is distanced from any black hole
The quantum physics of social class working
Itself out on the city streets -- and as
If lit up in Scream horror neon overhead
Appears to one that line of Seferis
About life under an earlier fascism
Lord don't let me die among these people

File:Chez Panisse cafe kitchen.jpg

Solitude: homeless man, 14th and Valencia, San Francisco: photo by Shayan Sanyal, 2007

The kitchen at Chez Panisse upstairs cafe: photo by Stu Spivack, 2006


Anonymous said...

#71. Another Ghost Of New York
November 4, 2009
brooklyn bridge buddha
subway tunnel saint
homeless haunter
tattered teacher
martyred mother
sad and alone
laying your blessed head
on the cold tiles
night after night
greeting me mornings
with your indifference
piles of food water bottles
change bills clothes mats pillows
empty jars torn books
all the offerings
of passersby
averting eyes at pee squattimg
picking privates
we know no matter our hope
that we are you
you are the Endless
as we are
and I wonder
where you
meditate now

u.v.ray. said...

I tackled similar observations here:

Of course, I lack your finesse, Tom. It's rather a rant I am afraid.

TC said...

Here is Ray's link done up for quick access:


there is no release

from the monotony of grey

november streets

scarred with the contortions

of so many desolate lives

& starvation is a dish best served cold

Alas Ray and Zev the pictures we see in your two fine poems are pictures not of the past but of the present as it becomes the future.

Wherever that subway prophet is meditating now let us hope it is some variation upon what they used to call, ah so hopefully, a better place. (Probably it would not take much.)


I must confess that this area of "subject matter" is less distanced for me than I would like or art might require. After being rather unkindly put out of work a few years ago and then suffering a stroke I learned that the social safety net has great rents and gaps. Trip and fall and it turns out you might just keep falling, velocity accelerating with time as in a comic physics equation. You are quite a bit less likely to land on a convenient trampoline than on the hard pavement where all these poems find their locus. The place is real but there is no genius loci, only the abjects, those tired clowns of a failing circus economy. The "us" and "them" frontier grows less clearly defined with the passing days, until there comes the time when one is terrified to find oneself, beyond all the desperate romance, sharing the perspective from Down Under.

Indeed in my imagination, my remaining area of mobility, I find myself travelling often in the Southern Hemisphere these days.

u.v.ray. said...

Indeed, Tom. I have long held that there are no safety nets. Or at least, that they are an illusion.

But we only find out when we hit that hard pavement ourselves. I can relate.

Anonymous said...

the romantic desperation
of words
the difference between on the road
on the street
scares the crap out of me.

I have been homeless
three times
and my words "never again"
haven't ever been heeded by time.

Anonymous said...

was it sinatra who sang "riding high in april, seriously shot down in may"?

TC said...

That's Life

~otto~ said...

I wish I had something poetic and insightful to say other than: I loved this - a lot.

TC said...


I wrestled with this piece a while, trying to get it (and me) to observe a certain distance from a situation that was/is maybe a little too immediate for "comfort".

Confession: it was reading your work (urban realism, truthfulness to the moment, brave example) that allowed me to get up the nerve to finally post it. Not to blame its flaws on you, but... Credit where due.

~otto~ said...

Tom, I am very flattered. Wow. Thank you for that.

Any chance I could bother you for some advice? If so, drop me a line otto (at) ottomattiq (dot) com.

Zephirine said...

Very powerful, Tom. It captures the strange way so many rich or 'comfortably off' people apparently think that poverty is catching and that those infected with it must be kept at a distance.

Or perhaps they're just afraid because they do instinctively realise how easily it could be them standing there and muttering about spare change...

TC said...

Yes, Zeph, the seemingly instinctive recoil of human from fellow human, whatever its (probably largely unconscious) origins, is terribly saddening to behold. I think sometimes of the lore of the London plague years of long ago. But this current demonstration of aversion seems curiously less specific. The persons who are stepped round and over and avoided as though unseen may well be afflicted with t.b., MRSA, H5N1 or who knows what, but none of that can quite account for the virulence of the revulsion we are seeing. It's almost as if the species were trying to divide itself off from itself in some way, or to deny from itself the truth about the interconnectedness of all people--that famous global village thing which comes to seem pretty hollow, resembling less any village ever known than a planetary wilderness of suspicious, distrustful monads.

aditya said...

Intricately built, Tom. I like it.

Pretty wonderful analogies and sequences in life, visible only to the most discerning eye are at play.

It is a privilege to read your work.


TC said...

Many thanks, again, Aditya. For your true poet's discerning eye.

aditya said...

Heyy Tom

I read some of Jim Morrison. Made little sense to me.

Could you enlighten me please.