Poets love patterns and surprise

sky

Poets love patterns and surprise
and every morning I get both
a rigid routine and a shock
I wake at 6 and think some thoughts
excitement rising all the while
(I woke up! I get to live another day!)
then pee and poo and clean my teeth
and meditate and sort the cat
I celebrate rules and rituals
and habits and patterns and clocks
On to the deck  in pyjamas and bare feet
to a sky bursting with mystery
like a child with a secret
that won’t be a secret for long
then I do tai chi in the same old place
a world that is new every day
is it frosty is it misty is it rainy is it fine
does the air cling and kiss today
or push my hands and slip away
does it whip me from the south
is it black, is it white, is it thick, is it thin
does it spin, does it spit icy teeth
does the air breathe Antarctica Geneva or Fiji
Surprise! Surprise! It’s a brand new day.
Right, so I do tai chi, now there’s a word
do
today will I do it fast or slow, high or low
will I dance it or chop it or ooze it today?
and then
when I’m done
I stop
I open my arms I swallow the sky
and I enunciate
in purest selfishness
Good morning world! I am still with you!
or once in a while
Good morning world.
What can I do for you today?

poem and photo by Rachel McAlpine cc by 2.0

 


This poem is part of an out-of-control all-encompassing book of read-aloud poems about my boot camp for the bonus years and the terrible task of being old.
 Don’t expect anything fancy: I do like fancy poems but with this monster I’m in a hurry, I’m 78, and this is the bit I wrote this morning. 

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The hardest part

Homeless person's shanty, Philadelphia. Photo Kevin Burkett cc by-sa 2.0
Homeless person’s shanty, Philadelphia. Photo Kevin Burkett cc by-sa 2.0

with Bruce

my parents were pretty much
well really they were addicts
that put a massive fact on me

welcome to my life
fall into a dark pit
I didn’t know what homeless was

the hardest part of homelessness
the hardest part was
hardest part

you get bored
and then you start adopting
to try to be a father

no one’s there to pick you up
I gave my heart to Jesus Christ
I ended up in this place

I feel like I’m still homeless
because of the past
just be kind, really


Voices Without Homes are mined by Rachel McAlpine from the pages of Te Ha Tangata: the breath of the people, a human library on homelessness. Editor Elspeth Tilley, published 2018 in Aotearoa New Zealand by Te Puaroha Compassion Soup Kitchen and Massey University School of English & Media Studies. https://www.facebook.com/tehatangata/

photo Kevin Burkett cc by-sa 2.0

Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness
Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness

Free and broken

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with Shannon

I was a slave to my family
when I ran away
I felt free like a bird
I wanted to soar

at five years old
I chose that life
that’s when I found
my homelessness

I had love for these people
I met on the street
all I knew was how to survive
and help the others

I learned a lot of things
things I don’t want to talk about
things I’m not proud of
but that’s how it was

the street was home back then
but it broke a lot in me
I am broken
by my homelessness

my emotions and my life
are not the fault of others
but the homelessness inside me
is very, very deep

whoever hears these things
open your heart to see
what is needed
and what can be changed


Poem mined by Rachel McAlpine from the pages of Te Ha Tangata: the breath of the people, a human library on homelessness. Editor Elspeth Tilley, published 2018 in Aotearoa New Zealand by Te Puaroha Compassion Soup Kitchen and Massey University School of English & Media Studies.
https://www.facebook.com/tehatangata/

photo by nate on Flickr cc by-nc-nd 2.0

Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness
Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness

Set in concrete

Homeless people's belongings, Croatia. Photo Kornelijle Sajler
Homeless people’s belongings, Croatia

with Verne

just because I’m scruffy
and smell sometimes
doesn’t mean my DNA
is not human

I ran away from boarding school
mattress on the floor
cockroaches and mice
a huge gambling problem

lots of drugs
lots of alcohol
I am apprehensive
about smiling

people yell at me
assumptions set in concrete
there’s very little future
unless magic happens


The poems in Voices with no home were mined by Rachel McAlpine from the pages of Te Ha Tangata: the breath of the people, a human library on homelessness. Editor Elspeth Tilley, published 2018 in Aotearoa New Zealand by Te Puaroha Compassion Soup Kitchen and Massey University School of English & Media Studies.
https://www.facebook.com/tehatangata/
Photograph Kornelijle Sajler cc by-sa 2.0

Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness
Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness

 

Part of the universe now

Homeless person sleeping in a doorway. Photo by Dan Dickinson
Homeless person sleeping in a doorway, Talahassee. Photo by Dan Dickinson, Flickr

with Robert

Nobody was at home
I was very, very hungry
I became very quiet
I was an angry, quiet kid

The pound is a concrete cell
I used to think, I’m here forever
I was frightened, really frightened
I became a little puppet

I’ve been sober eighteen years
I’ve been clean twelve years
From that, I get a life
I’m part of the universe now


Voices with no home: poems mined by Rachel McAlpine from the pages of Te Ha Tangata: the breath of the people, a human library on homelessness. Editor Elspeth Tilley, published 2018 in Aotearoa New Zealand by Te Puaroha Compassion Soup Kitchen and Massey University School of English & Media Studies.

Photograph Dan Dickinson cc by 2.0

Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness
Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness