Writing Through Hard Times – July 2018

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

Dean Glorso

Code-Crackers & Hack-Hackers

Where have you gone Ronald Reagan?

Now that the wall is removed

People return to the streets

Too many problems we greet

Few people understand 

What we’ve been through

Most loud voices haven’t got a clue

It’s the Code-Crackers & Hack-Hackers

That will do us in

And I’m not talking about golfers

With silly grins

Facilities gone that grew the product

Green in the color Homer Simpson drank

Flanders fields didn’t grow the monster’s name

Mr. Burns can’t match the reality of evils

It’s the Code-Crackers & Hack-Hackers

That will cause upheaval

Not a silly hairdo 

Nor a Congress of Voodoo

Get a grip and whip

Before it’s too late

Code-Crackers & Hack-Hackers 

Will set the date

David Wesley Chapman

Keep On Writing

Keep on writing, even in the dark. Especially in darkness – that’s when words mean the most. 

I learned this lesson in the darkest times and places I ever knew.


After four years of mandatory military service at the height of the Cold War, featuring the 

final year of the war in Vietnam, I tried to come home to my quiet little town in Colorado. 


But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t come home. Because what I’d seen and done was so huge, 

so overwhelming, that a piece of my soul was still laying in the mud, too stunned to get up 

from one of the monstrous ditches filled with innocent human bodies

by the victorious communist forces in Southeast Asia. 


Everything I knew, everything I’d been raised to believe, couldn’t help me 

put the pieces of myself back together again.


In that darkness, it was words that saved me. Stories in support groups, words spoken 

in sweat lodges, lines scribbled in my own journal. A course in miracles. And a book, 

written by a combat nurse. She said I had to find a way, somehow, to own that war. 

If I didn’t do that, the war would own me, and I’d be lost forever. 


At first, I thought it was impossible...to own a war. But words did that for me. 

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. I say words are more powerful than 

squadrons of strategic bombers, or even nuclear weapons.


After I read the words of my own Great-grandfather, scratched in faint lines of ink,

on old brittle paper, during his service in the Civil War, then I knew it was true. 

Robert Petrich

Simple Personal Effects

I used the GI Bill to return to college in 1976.  Very few of the women I met were interested in listening to me talk about the Army and not many of the guys admitted to being veterans, so I had a small semi-circle of friends.

I started keeping a journal so I could talk to someone, even if only myself.  Most of what I wrote was produced late at night, drinking beer and wine alone in a garage apartment.  My handwriting got worse and worse as the night progressed – starting to lean and stagger across the page like a lower case “m” with one too many humps. 

About that time, my father wrote each of his children a letter during step one of an Alcoholics Anonymous program.  I think we were supposed to reply to his letter and some of us did.  He never made it to step two and gave up trying before he died.  My mother had to deal with his personal effects and decided to destroy the replies that my sister and brothers had sent him.  She said their letters were too personal for anyone else to see.      

I went on to fill three Big Chief tablets full of depressing journal entries, poems, and laments and then stopped writing during 30 years of marriage.  I destroyed the tablets when my wife and I cleared out a storage locker and went our separate ways.  I didn’t want the remains of my thoughts found hidden with my underwear, to be dealt with after I died.       

I’ve started journaling and writing again, but early in the morning, as the sun rises, before the darkness returns.  I try to share and own up to my words now, not hide them away as too personal, possessions that no one should see.