The Hard Times Writing Workshop is a collaboration between Denver Public Library and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. The workshop is open to all members of the public—especially those experiencing homelessness. Each month, the Denver VOICE will publish a selection of the voices of Hard Times.
Hard Times meets every Tuesday afternoon from 3:00-5:00 in the book club room of DPL’s Central branch. To check out more writing by Hard Times participants, go to writedenver.org.
When YOU a stranger needs help (not the injury or emergency type of help of course)
I am tired
in a hurry
really don’t want to . . .
Yet, want to ensure
regret and guilt
don’t drown the rest of my day?
Am I being kind?
When I smile and say “hi”
immediately wondering why I did so
as there is a risk in this simple greeting— “Hi”
it may open the floodgates—it may open your desire to fill the space,
all the space, so much space
with all the minute details of your daily agenda for
the week, the day, the month, the minutes
or other surface level grumblings never getting to the nitty gritty of anything?
Are you being kind by doing so?
Was I being kind
handing out wool gloves and hats during an icy winter day to those few sleeping on the warm grates near the office —
or was I simply
not wanting regret and guilt
to drown my day, week, minutes, month, or year?
As I know once the idea of giving, helping, doing for another rises
It cannot be erased
Are you being kind when you ask how I am? /// You? expecting only the “fine, thank you” in return
not truly wanting to know anymore than those words, not wanting your space filled with other than those three words . . .
as you’re tired and in a hurry and really don’t want to know. ■
The Road to Compassion
Before you can discover compassion, you must step away from comfort. You must drain the moat, lift the gates of the fort. You must sweep the path of branches and leaves to make it welcoming for the unforeseen sojourner. You must shed, snake-like, exposing self to get the feel of another skin. You must stand or dance drenched in rain barefoot on sharp stones to feel the pain you know to be the traveler’s burden.
You have to take the hurt in to release it with an anguished, silent screaming breath to know the sorrow of a stranger’s struggle or a loved one’s death, to not let a blanket, warm with your own heat, become little more than a shroud, a winding sheet under which you are but some kind of ghost unable to be a welcoming host to those lost and injured, blind, dumb, crippled, and needy souls that come onto your path and walk or crawl beside you and make you think that you deserve more than others sharing this path, this road, this planet we call Earth. Prepare that road. ■
Lyric Saint James
Let tonight be my last night in the shelter
Tomorrow when I wake
Let me cook in my kitchen
Use my bathroom
No bugs in my bed
Be the last night in the shelter
This is my prayer ■