Writing Through Hard Times – April 2019

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

Stephanie Esposito

Why I don’t believe anyone when they say it’s going to be ok 

there is a shoe 

you wear on your foot 

and there is a shoe that comes 

through the air 

a shoe that makes the cops come

and say 

what is going on here 


one of you has to leave 

for safety 

then everyone has to decide 

and we really want the same thing 

but that’s not a choice 

anymore, somehow 

so dad has to go and mom 

I don’t know what she’s doing 

maybe the cops quieted her down

I did go along 

stayed in the hotel 

walked into school feeling mysterious 

like I knew everything was going to change 

like I had “seen some shit” 

maybe I wanted her to hurt 

for telling me I had no friends 

for telling me I wasn’t pretty 

for making my lip bleed 

but we all hurt.

meeting up at gas stations 

taking a bag from one trunk to another 

cut between two but some lost in translation 

our hearts becoming satellites 

that don’t have anywhere to send our signals to 



if I’m just out here blinking. 

if I don’t wear shoes 

and just want to drink sunshine 

(and beer)

take me out and dust me off 

like a rug in spring 

Jonny Johnson 

In The Dumps

I was down in the dumps

Long day, lots of bumps

I’d just gotten over the biggest hump

And found myself

Banged up Chewed up Spat up Sittin up

With the largest head lump 

No, I needed no mirror

Or medic magazine

I needed no scripture 

Nor friend inspectin’ me 

To tell I was a-hurtin

The pain rose from within

As true as rock, as true as wind 

As true as rust upon the metal bin 

There I stopped to lay my things

Just a short time to set my belongings 

Free my shoulders of their weight

And give my head a chance to syncopate 

I was free of any physical burden

And sat up with time enough

To paint constellations in the stars 

And dream a little dream without going too far

A circling, circus of little mice, 

Elephants and dragons

Dancing two-step around my noggin 

Around this dump, around this bin

I found newspaper clippin’s 

And in the headlines

Were media’s attempts to realize 

A world of importance

Trump had a new haircut 

And Putin was on the wire

People surrounded the police trucks 

With signs sayin’, “Work for hire.”

I kicked the papers away 

No idea which direction 

This world is headin’

But I needed some relief Some fun to kick in

So I dived in the dumpster

To see if there’s somethin’ worth havin’ Passed the usual white bags

With their pierced sides oozin’ and juicin’

And clear signs of both college kids

And drunks a-boozin’

A week’s worth of baby diapers 

Gave the bin a good rank 

Beneath the eggshells

Pricked by toothpicks and napkins 

And a blended assortment of colorful who knows what else

I find matches, good for two nights I place them to the side

Lay them on the carton 

And there at the bottom 

Is a set of magnets

All out of order

In no language I understand 

But it was my moment

My reason to stand

And that’s where you’ll find me in the bottom of that dump

I’ll be back at the beginning 

With my daily blessings

I’ll be busy at play with my A, B, C’s

Sheree L. Downs

Homeless, Sorta

Her mom pays for a motel room on West Colfax, $1,200 a month. But, the meth has taken hold of her. So, instead of a semi-safe room that waits for her, she runs the streets looking for that next fix.

Come back to the motel room, get clean, your mom worries about you.