This is Home.
I OWN THE CITY AND THE RIVER
In this city of my poem there is no gull
nor sea, nor dawn deft and graceful as the greyhound,
no flower, no star of snow and justice;
the city of your dreams cannot be here in my poem;
instead, here are tall legs and long peacoats,
coffee cups and coins.
Here is the tear of some motherless son,
some suburb full of howling winds and industry, some
tiny streets with depths like wounds and oil
and grease-stains of suffering.
Here the hunger and warm fires and the sonorous mist
sound together like the shriek of gears
of the solitary door, birth-less sidewalk
and the lonely window, the birdless garden
the childless school, tears dried over the garbage heap.
Here the cold loudspeakers of fear, the cement
Here everything meant for life and met with death but freedom
Is not here, nor song nor river, nor freezing half wind with half a
With This is Home I wanted to explore the fictional story of a young person who has been pushed into the homeless cycle. My choice to create a figure of homelessness on a less than human scale is to invoke the feeling of invisibility, and convey their journey in a cold uncaring landscape that is built to reject their sleeping body. People who are homeless are forced to exhibit their suffering on the public stage, labeled by the possessions their carry and coats they wear. They remain four-dimensional relational human beings marked for their misfortunate rather than as victims of failing systems; such as a housing market that continuously fails to provide accessible housing which then produces and reproduces the displacement of at-risk people.
For those of us privileged people with the good fortune of secure housing situations it is easy to become apathetic to the human suffering closest to us. Homelessness is a condition not an identity. Who is responsible for ensuring that no one in our city should have to sleep outside anymore?
As our public buildings and streets are policed and controlled, homeless people become invisible by day and an interference at night. We are compliant with invisible homeless bodies. Complicit to their suffering that occurs right before our eyes.
By creating this young figure of homelessness I wanted to explore a fictional narrative of othering people who are homeless, and the complexity of this societal issue which can too often be oversimplified and ignored. By exaggerating the scale of this figure and placing it as an intervention in the urban landscape an invitation is extended to look much closer at the issue of homeless. How close do you need to get before seeing the problem?
I think by examining our relationship to this character, our indifferent behavior towards victims of homelessness can hopefully unravel. The homeless issue is the result of systemic problems, it is governmental, and it is personal. We may start here.