Each month, the Denver VOICE publishes a selection of writing from workshops sponsored by Lighthouse Writers Workshop. The Hard Times Writing Workshop is a collaboration between Denver Public Library and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. This workshop is open to all members of the public—especially those experiencing homelessness. Hard Times meets every Tuesday from 3-5 p.m. on the fourth floor of DPL’s Central branch. The Lighthouse sponsored workshop at The Gathering Place is specifically for that organization’s clients.
To check out more writing by the poets featured in this column, go to writedenver.org.
Safe Water: Flint or The Serengeti?
Each day, women of the world walk miles for water. In Flint, we wait for hours in car traffic for the same thing.
We get up each day
and stoke the stove
sweep the floor,
hang the clothes;
from the old trusty tub
we’ve had for so long,
washed load after load
with its’ metallic song.
The routine ran like clockwork,
now the chores aren’t the same;
‘cause a basic element of life
is much harder to obtain.
Rather than turn on the faucet
letting water flow to the sink,
we now have to wait hours in line, for
filled jugs from which we drink.
I feel more aligned with
the Kenyan Village folk,
I once saw on TV;
where women balance water vessels
on their heads, walking
across the Serengeti.
Flint’s “Serengeti” has “civilization”
with people on the brink;
neighborhoods with desperate people
scurry for water, safe to drink.
They’re headed to a
makeshift watering hole
for this ungodly nightmarish scene;
thank politicians who poisoned the water, for
this sickening, exhausting routine.
Car exhaust fumes, in the
miles-long Flint waiting line
or pristine Serengeti air,
where would you rather be,
on this damp and
This is a poem to my Uncle William
Who when I was four tickled me until my
Kidneys ached and let loose.
I thought I’d die.
Uncle loved laughing children.
His wife and stepchildren never laughed.
They were cold like frozen stoic stones.
One evening while uncle engineered at
The Bulova watch company
His wife and stepchildren left his home
With a sick, preaching man in a long pink Cadillac
Whose tail fins winked in the rain
The next day and the day forever after,
Uncle curled up on the couch with Smirnoff
And drank until the light went out.
Uncle was once like a bright Brooklyn brownstone
All polished and light.
Now in a dark room
Hush hovered, cockroaches crawled and drunkeness dawdled
My mother scolded
“Willaim, you have to stop drinking, you’re on dialysis.”
Uncle William said
“Marge, this is the only pleasure I have left on Earth.”
This is a poem to my Uncle
Who, when I was four,
Cried when his kidneys ached and let loose.
He crossed over that night dreaming of his wife.
I thought I’d die.
Val U Able
Out of Place
Ouch! I feel out of place as a child on our school playground, being excluded and bullied for looking different due to my strict religion. I feel misplaced.
Ouch! I feel out of place in my home, within family of origin, being rejected and ejected by my own mom. I feel displaced.
Ouch! I feel out of place in my marital home, enduring an excruciating two decades of trauma, confused how it could be all my fault — and having to evacuate to escape the worsening situation. I feel displaced once again.
Ouch! I feel out of place living in limbo, hiding to protect myself from the very ones who should be my safe place to land. I feel replaced.
Ouch! I feel out of place and exhausted meeting the demands of my perfectionist tendencies -- a coping mechanism I developed to self-soothe and feel in control of at least the inanimate objects in my life.
AHA! I’ve worked my way to clarity and now realize being “out of place” perfectly positioned me to be “in place” for countless others also feeling out of place.
I’ve learned to embrace rejection as redirection...and to honor this space between “no longer” and “not yet.”
Much like an eaglet ejected from the nest, my fear of falling has morphed into a newfound freedom to SOAR!!