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‘I need to know I am still here.’ A poem about Seattle homelessness

Some of us don’t know where we’re going to sleep tonight. Or where we can keep our things. Or take a shower. Or just enjoy some privacy. That’s a hard situation to think about, let alone solve.

Today, media and nonprofits around the city are helping to put a spotlight on a humanitarian crisis with the #SeaHomeless project. That’s a daylong effort to gather coverage of the issue and invite Seattleites to participate.

We want to offer a poem to the project. It’s written by a woman who spent months living without a home here and has been working with The Evergrey Writing Group to put the experience into words.

UNTITLED
— By Claire Justice

For so long I did not have a voice and then I did not have a toilet
Our bags are many, tattered and screaming dirty
So you look away
My frozen bones clank loudly as I slowly shuffle along
I walk all day, and try so hard to stay out of your way
Still you look away
So I talk out loud to air
As if I do not care
So maybe now you will stare
And will not look away
Because I need to know I am still here
Yet, still you look away
I understand
It is my predicament you deeply fear.

***

Oh the millions of humiliating moments
Of no place to go
It is the frantic racing to the alley garbage cans to hide my mellow yellow flat ass to pee
Because you see, it is six more blocks to the public bathroom and I have to GO
Oh! You notice me now
As the sour smelly puddles around my shoes
The worst part is, the dirt splatters spots on my just-cleaned tennis shoes
I forgot to pee downhill.

***

These spots are visible
Testimony to my “gotta hold it” has flown the coop
Some wear layers soaked through and through
That homeless ‘I have given up’ smell
I have nowhere to go
No chair in a warm cozy corner to read a book
No closet to hang my clothes
No bed for my blanket
The alley is my toilet
SEE ME NOW?
I have no place to go.

***

God? Really?

***

I want to live among the high mountain pines
Where a gentle breeze carries a peaceful birdsong through my spirit
Like a kind lover’s fingers through my hair
Where the earth pulls me down to meld with the buttercup warmth and the scent of the earth,
She brings me home to my soul’s beginning
To rest awhile.

Claire Justice is this poet’s pseudonym. We granted her anonymity because she prefers that her identity not be tethered to her experience with homelessness. She is now renting a room in a home, waiting for an opening in senior low-income housing.