Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

The line snakes around the block – twice – circling, waiting patiently or not. Thankfully, the rain has stopped. The Vietnamese seniors, younger blacks and whites, single men, women – children must be in school – no babes in arms or strollers – many eyes cast down, and most in dark shabby dress. the directors, volunteers in yellow vests, move the crowd along, leave a passage way open on the sidewalk for others to pass through. The wait is long, the crowd is silent in places, and loud and jostling in others – depending on who is in the locale. an argument breaks out, but most are low-key. Other yelling this morning, and i thought the protesters were back across the street, at the Hilton hotel, the last swanky place before the neighbourhood declines and turns to hostels and SROs and other rooming houses inhabited by those on budgets and the poor. I walk outside, for my morning cigarette, pass through the line that crosses the door of where i stay, walk around another block, and pass back through, into a door – but i know that i am really no different that them – of maybe i am, for most have a home of sorts, and an expectation of a holiday dinner coming up. And those who wait for hours it seems, in a sky that threatens rain, wait for that red bag that some now carry along, a christmas food hamper and this is part of the seasons routine. The waiting outside for hours in a line to announce your plight to the world, but at least in the area, the poor and down and out are accepted for who they are, and are still allowed to live here.

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I head back
and i feel the vision that has been haunting my return
it had not spoken much while i was away
but it now comes back full force
and fills me with fear
and i though i was going somewhere safe

it is the vision of homelessness
that has been with me for so long
for that is what i am
and have been
and i feel the streets calling
and i remember the darkness of those places
and i remember the empty souls that stagger along
and i do not want to go
though the image comes to my mind
has off and on for years
and i cannot let it go
it comes calling strongest
when i am to return
like the time i came back
first from Mexico
then from Europe
i want a place to rest my head
i want to go home
i feel like i have been moving for too long
and once i return i cannot stop
for without a home
you cannot stay
cannot linger
or even sit on a bench
and i do not want to be dark
i want to be light
but i am tired
and i feel the stress return
the back seize up once again
no place to stay
move along, move along,
lord i want a place to be
where my soul can be free.

I edit this now,

i said i would no longer resist
if it is my place i will accept it
embrace it

I see the poor here
frayed shoes carrying babies
selling trinkets in the square
the old man sitting on the street
hands out

And maybe it is not just my return that haunts me
but a visitation to a land with the disposseses
a richer country
other places were truly poor
but there was not the gap
those who seem to be alone
looking on to the festivities
there but not there
and here i watch my money
so low
and do not sit on the square
and i feel it so.

But i have felt my call
to work with those who do not belong
and maybe it is time to answer the call

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Another city, i sit and observe, watching life stroll by, drink coffee, smoke and write. A sadness overwhelms and i do not know what i do here, why i am here. Awoke this morning to the sound of cars rather than of birds or dogs or something. I sit here watching – i know that i am part of the interplay of life that goes on, just as i see others, others see me, but despite all the people i feel alienated and cut off in a cafe in the main square. San Cristobal is both a tourist town and a real city with people going on about their lives, and i do little, like i have in many places, and here i feel lost. I know the calm inside should be regardless of where i am, but i dont know why i am here. Life goes on – work, study, family, friends, suffering and indulgence, but i cannot relate. I want to talk to god and the spirit, but i do not connect with the spirit that lies inside us all. And i walk up and down the streets, over and over like i have so many other places. looking but not seeing, hearing the noise but not the voices, feeding myself on coffee, smokes, a bit of food, but not on god, or so it seems, though i try. I do the circle of the churches, not ornate and welcoming as i remembered (but i now think that was another city, or was it just my imagination) but they seem harsh and cold, with flat ceilings and bloody crucified Jesuses on crosses, and dark painting of pious looking saints in the front above the altar surrounded by gold (or copper) – it is austere and not joyous – though one on the hill was full of flowers on the altar and people praying and a louder procession left from the cathedral yesterday – but they are not places that lift my spirit and call to me. in a few i sit briefly and others i walk around, stare blankly and leave, feeling cut off and wanting to join with god.
So i sit and drink coffee – the pace of life goes on with little boys incessantly, persistently, selling their wares, forceful at times, almost aggressive and refusing to leave until you get harsh on the 6th no. And the women and little girls and grandmothers left alone selling. And i remember this feeling – as i sit here, rich compared to them, indulging in a coffee with time to sit, becoming at times closed and hostile, not a five minute break, cannot be.
And i remember thinking, in san marcos, thinking of my return to the us, where i am on the outside, one of them, that we/they – the beggars, the homeless, the poor, are but shadows – shadows of poverty and wanting that exist in the shadow of indulgence and ¨the good life¨ – a life not for all, denied to many, and with the disparity borders get drawn even more intensely, and the gap grows and i sit here drinking my coffee – a privilege, a normal habit but a luxury for some. And it is more here, a little barefoot girl – 3 or 4 goes around asking for pesos, learning to beg – but am i really any different. And the guilt grows, i buy a trinket, but it is just a drop in the bucket, more to assuage my guilt. At times i think they are there to teach compassion and loving and giving.
But it is more in the tourist zones and in places where the gap is big. The eyes that look longingly at the table – mainly of the young who have not yet learned to avert them, the young like the shoeshine boys who later sit outside another cafe indulging in a frozen mocha. But i know that look, face to face with what you cannot have, standing outside, looking on, longing, for i too have had that look many a time.
And the peddlers and beggars are more intense here than they have been elsewhere in central america. Is is just the gap – for you go through much of the rural areas (except near here) where people are poor, but still seem to have something – not as ground down. Or is it also another loss, a poverty that is not only material, but spiritual, a poverty that is deeper, that cannot be solved by buying a trinket today. I think of my time in Nica, which was poor in material things, but also seemed rich – a sense of spirit and connection that existed in places with the very basic simple life. Or is it the people – but no – i have seen the maya in their communities and know that not all are pushy sellers, the aggressive merchants, but here with those who now live in the slums on the edge of town, the aggression is worse. Or where there is the gap – tourist land, pana at the lake, or the frequent thefts in san marcos. but i drift away from this place.
And is that what i see here, amongst those, like me at times, the travellers who wander, looking, or those who live the good life – possibly materially wealthy, but spiritually poor, and seeking to fill up. A woman with goods walks by, i avert my eyes, do not want to see, cannot buy from all, she reminds me, i hang onto what i have, close my heart instead of open it, or do i, for it aches with pain and guilt. A smile, a kind word is not enough, and their resentment of me turns to resentment of them. i try to open my heart, send love, a smile.
And the traffic circles on and people walk through and i am back to searching, on how to leave this place, feeling trapped, no where to go, enthusiasm down, flight to usa in a week and have no home, my temporary privilege, the one sitting on the seat facing the square is over, to i the one who looks on longingly and cannot join in. And in many ways does not want to – the feeding of emptiness, of internal poverty.
And in the city i long once again for where i am not – a place to be in nature, commune with god, and light up and see the spirit inside all. and perhaps i am here to learn, to do that here as well, the calm inside when there is noise without, and to feel the interconnectedness of all, and not apart, and to remove the veil from my heart and soul in the places where it is more difficult.


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