I don’t remember the first time I saw a homeless person
You can’t find one of those in Lexington, Massachusetts
Birthplace of the American Revolution
Red pavement without payment of litter,
Elegant boutiques, dainty planted trees
Cul-de-sacs curled around mansions
Little girls boys bright, bubbled futures – so few chills
For want is no friend to upper middle class glut
Fear does not feed on green pesticide-not-quite-grass
As dreams are blown from mouths like bubbles – fragile, wet, still steaming
Weightless they cling to skin, nesting, become another skin, home
But if you can’t find a home here, then you have no home
This town is not for the homeless.
So when I came to Berkeley, I soberly took it in
Bodies line Telegraph
Like graphs of skin
Sliced off but never sewn back…to bodies, now so blackened
Why do I carry on my back
A wardrobe of clothes,
Sewn with hopes
Bubbling, bursting into fruits
Coating skin – sticky, sweet
I am educated.
3 university semesters,
84, 297 dollars
Not so public education –
When they carry deprivation
You are an enigma.
Our endless streaming bubbled eyes
Popping out of 'worthy' minds
Rushing on to any place but your own
Is this more bona fide? Or is it just bones?
Is this just ordinary? Can I not do anything?
Should I not look? Too uncomfortable, helpless, cynical, or just four minutes late to my sociology midterm?
Me, me, me.
I am one of tens of thousands of people who pass by
And force him into invisibility
We’ll fixate on the Kardashians, but don’t dare to look at the human two feet away
A silent spectacle, the macabre episode
I can leave the theater, but he is the screen
Try not to watch, or I’ll vomit guilt
Because I could never smell like shit
Look like sin, ram trash down my throat and have it taste good,
Be a life-size real-action billboard of failure only begging, only begging, reeking of deficiency.
I could never be like him –
The same question every day, he waits for the answer to change but no I’m sorry I don’t have any change
Blow off, blow over, blow up
When I'm just bloated
Off myself, over his body, up and up to celestial academia
Bloated, my eyes so big they are bubbles, swollen with the ego of invincible youth, so much glorious life left to lead –
Granted to me by Lexington
Beautiful bubbled bulwark against affliction, anguish, and reality
I licked you from the inside, stinging copper, made me wince
Unable to rinse
What did it matter if outside would cut my tongue from inside my mouth.
Now I open my mouth
Tearing jagged strips
But it just grows back
Pooling in pores,
I watched his eyes swirl away in the shower
Two bubbles too big to fit through holes in the drain
But squeezed and sucked away anyways, yesterday’s dirt
Until here I am, glassy-eyed, squeaky clean small white rich girl
Doesn’t my skin look like sin to you?
But now their graphs of skin,
Become lumps of real flesh, real minds, with real dreams
Just like me
It is not us and them – it is we.
We could be like that
Those poor people, those poor poor poor people those poor
Poor for what? No money or a government, tacitly complicit society
They don’t want to work, roll back billions in social programs,
Take their jobs, food, homes
Stripped of what is public… what is public?
There is no “right to the city”
Sit-lie laws oblige them undeserving of the filthiest city corner
Why don't they just disappear?
Reappear only as abstract statistics of failure
Pity is a gift that rhymes with welfare
The fairness of wealth, without fairness of health
Farewell to our neighbors
Those poor, their fault, their shame, and their duty to raise themselves up from nothing,
They need, we help
We need help.
I am from Lexington, Massachusetts
Birthplace of the American Revolution
But graveyard to the American Dream.
We were taught to dream
Privilege with strings I could not see
Mouths breathing hope, blowing bubbles
But their dreams are smothered.
When will we realize
That means ours are smothered?
Aspiration turned asphyxiation
I could choke on my own skin, my home, beacon for success
Meaningless - if you can't pay a property tax
But when did being property-less
Turn the right to dream useless?
What happened to “Give me your poor, homeless masses, wretched refuse… yearning to breathe free”?
Free us from the privatized, segregated enclaves of fortune and affluence
The barbed barricades are exploding bubbles, dreams like we were not once immigrants
Shunted scraps, dragging flesh to shore
Through the golden door,
Opportunity is no longer for the poor – he asks the same question every day,
Waiting for the answer to change
Yes I want to change.
Our fault, our shame, and our duty
To open our doors,
The American Dream is not dead
It just is not something to be proud of anymore
We all deserve space to inhale its dream
Feel as it sails down, bubbling, bursting in our insides
Like millions of fruit – sticky, sweet
Tiny Fourth of July’s
Fill millions of bodies
Blown back out, tiny globes of hope – fragile, wet, still steaming
This time laden, embracing, they bind our skin, this is home –
Our home It is not us and them – it is we.
It is we.
Sarah Macklis is a sophomore studying at the University of California at Berkeley. She believes that poetry can be, in the words of Ananya Roy, an “impossible space of poverty action" – a space in which to challenge conventional injustice, as well as explore alternative frames of perspective.