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They shuffle through our garbage alleys
with plaintive scrapings into barren midnight
restless, searching through the dark and deep
This is why we call them vermin
though they wear human faces

“There is no room for you!” This is true
We no longer keep real mangers, anymore
or the ones we have are for display, only
and are currently stowed up in the attic
with the dust covered book of donations
we dig out for little checks, once a year

We need an example…
What would the landlord do?
He would give them his open palm
not to present a key, but flat expectation
empty but for an ingenious deception
his hand is like his eyes, his hostel
It is open and closed, simultaneously
As for the way it is thrust
it appears to be a fist
“Pay first!”

If we cannot break their gnawing hunger
we will punish in petty measures
If we cannot blight we will hide
tossing our tokens across a cold shoulder
these are hard vinegar-laced rinds
a barking mad dog would not approach

We give in, take your room
you couldn’t call it fine
just a cubby hole, really
and yes, the walls are caving in
but if you cannot buy or steal to pay
we will make you earn your keep
like Samson in chains

How can we blame them for drifting, then?
Sleepwalking up and down these brutal streets
passing out in stoops of squalor as though dead
when our hearts are bullets, loaded
and our gifts are but ejected cartridges
touched by the residue of gunpowder...

and the way of the righteous reeks of dread



------
"All the darkness in the world
cannot put out the light
of one candle"


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Comments

The following comments are for "Malice Hotel"
by hazelfaern

some classic lines
There are some very eloquent and evocative lines there hazelfaern, "plaintive scrapings into barren midnight", for example hits you right between the eys right at the beginning. Well me anyway. The title caught my attention initially.
A homage to the homeless. Terrifical stuff.

smithy

( Posted by: smithy [Member] On: May 1, 2004 )

Are There No Work Houses?
Thanks, smithy. There's actually a kind of funny story behind the title. I was running an early errand before work, yesterday. At a certain interssection there are always panhandlers. A law was passed last year in my town, that requires a permit for panhandling, which has had an ironic effect -- the homeless don't panhandle on corners, anymore, the homeless shelters do. A volunteer was waving a bucket with the name of his organization on the front, but it was turned slightly askew, so though it read "Malachi House" at first I thought it said "Malice Hotel". Now that, I thought, would make a funny name for the welfare system.

Some of this was inspired by the big brew-ha-ha that's been going on in New York over the state of the metropolitan shelter system. It's over-crowded. Last year, as a temporary over-flow measure, Bloomburg had some homeless families sleeping in an unused prison. A New York Times op-ed columnist asked what the children being led into jail cells were supposed to think?

There was an excellent documentary shown on Sundance which examined why many homeless refuse to go to shelters. One man, living underneath a train trestle insisted "The shelters are nothing but sewers of drug use and stinky bug infested bunk beds."

I don't think all homeless shelters are necessarily bad. A big part of this poem is the idea that the way we treat the homeless, or really the needy in general, is often insulting simply because our cruelty is indeliberate.

I've seen the Social Services building in my town. I was there with someone working on the computer system. I remember the flaking, ghastly pea-green paint, the water stains on the ceiling and the cobbled together chairs. Even the fine print notieces, taped up here and there, seemed to be barely holding on. Combine this with over-worked, under-paid case workers and the whole of the place seems to say "If you've come here crawling on your belly, we're still too good for you." But this isn't the way you build a person up to get back on their feet and go looking for work. This is the way you tear a person down, slowly, from the inside out, so that every ticking minute waiting for a little check says "It's hopeless. It's hopeless." and all a person wants to do is go find something to wash out the memory of a coldness which isn't even considerate enough to be deliberate in it's derision.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: May 1, 2004 )

I enjoyed...
It. Not much else to say ;)

-SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: May 1, 2004 )

Homelessness
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your poem . It says so much in so little a word.It reminds me of a homeless man I saw sleeping in the stairwell of a Chicago parking termial. It was very sad. I may write about him one day soon.Your heart shows here so openly.You make me feel that if you could you would build a house just for those lost and abandon souls. My best to you...Lorraine

( Posted by: Lorraine [Member] On: May 1, 2004 )

Wow
I like the whole poem, but that last line is just incredible.

( Posted by: cybele [Member] On: May 2, 2004 )

Exquisite
What a wonderful description of such a huge social tragedy. Thanks for sharing, I very much enjoyed this piece.

( Posted by: Everybodyelsesgirl [Member] On: May 3, 2004 )

politcally poetic
You definitely have a strong opinion about the class system in American society. You convey your thoughts with striking phrases and moving images, like "gnawing hunger", "Samson in chains", "where our hearts are bullets...", and "the way of the righteous reeks of dread". There are a few things you could do to clean the poem up a bit. Punctuation and grammar are excellent tools for emphasis and clarification. Separating a powerful phrase, for instance, will automatically make a reader pause because of the white space but your intent would be for the dramatic effect. That technique would fit in well with the way your pooem is currently written, without correct punctuation, so it would be easy to incorporate. However, ther are still a few punctuation errors that should be corrected either way. (Unless you are purposely using incorrect punctuation, but it is inconsistent). Also, there are a few images, or thoughts, that you are trying to express like, "we call them vermin/ though they wear human faces". This has the potential to be a much more powerful image if perhaps worded a little differently. Don't forget to capitalize a new line (or not, but keep it consistent). Overall, you have a strong sense of the message you are portraying and you definitely have a potentially great poem, after maybe a few more edits. Keep up the great work!

( Posted by: MelissaRuby [Member] On: May 5, 2004 )

malicia

good work, here. very strong. killer last line. nice to see you writing about this topic, and not from an intellectual place... mostly.

red pen notes...

This is why we call them vermin
though they wear human faces

i agree with melissa that you could tighten this a bit. maybe just

vermin with human faces
?

it's riskier, but i think it works.

allow me to be soooo bold as to offer an option for your second stanza...

“There is no room for you!”
No real mangers, anymore
The display ones are
stowed up in the attic
with the dust-covered book of donations
for our meager, once-a-year checks

i don't quite get "we give in" in the 5th stanza.

i think sampson has a "p" in it.

fourth stanza could use some tightening, too... maybe some punctuation work. and it's a little unclear... i think i know where you're going (no one's going to eat this shit we're tossing, not even a crazy dog), but it's such a great metaphor that it could use a little polishing up, i think.

we can email about this and do a little workshopping if you want. i have more suggestions, but this comment's going to get awfully long.

( Posted by: ark [Member] On: May 9, 2004 )

Oh, a moment, Ark
Sometimes I have to let your suggestions roll around in my brain for a little while before I can really grasp where you're coming from....

I like the fuller "This is why we call them..." because it places the emphasis on those who create the names, rather than just those who wear them. Or were you suggesting "This is why we call them/ vermin with human faces?" I can see that, but I wanted to show how blind the self-righteous can be. Does that make sense? That hatred erases the humanity from others?

"We give in" is there because, like the landlord, the charitable have been trying to stall, maybe get away with giving nothing at all... but I believe I originally wrote this line as "Take it then, this room" Does that work better for you?

And you're right about Sampson. Ooops, typo.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about the second staza. Yes, by all means, an e-mail would be lovely. ;)

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: May 9, 2004 )





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