Writing Through Hard Times

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.

Dennis Bell

The Phoenix

The Phoenix dies, ashes flurry,

and the world freezes in awe.

Trees stand in naked strength, unchanging.

But within, beneath the surface,

a thousand minor alchemies conspire

to grow new leaves.

There is a secret heat in the roots,

fed by a hidden sun. ■



I finally found a home 

after two years being labeled “homeless,” 

or, the “chronically homeless” 

I wonder if I still am— 

I guess I had fit the qualifications 

they had written on the questionnaire

My experience of 

poverty and violence 

put me there

I love my new home 

despite the labels 

and the ongoing fear of 

losing a home 


I wonder if I belong anywhere, 

even in my own home

I look out the window at the city below, 

the wind chill factor way below—

my expectations way below

A man I had given a dollar to months before 

brought a mattress to sleep behind the dumpster 

right across from my window

I wish I could invite him into the building, 

into the warmth

I never will

Every morning as I go to work 

or somewhere

I see him

He looks at me

not perverted, not angry,

he looks at me with such sincerity, 

with such loneliness

All I could do is look back at him,

into his eyes

and offer him a home,

of sorts■

Austin Riker


Hear them!

Even now.

Late, faint and fading. 

Hear them!

Please, try harder so.

The beat.

The beat, now soft.

At far young distance,

Oft, warm memories fade.

Yes, lives once lived!

Yes, hopes once dreamed!

You can still hear them!

Even now.

The drums. 

The drums.

The ancient drums.

So dance!

Just dance!

Please my Brother!

This last dance,

Before the beat is gone. ■