Occupy Wall Street. Santa Fe. 2012
I don’t see myself as an authority on homelessness, and I have never written poetry directly about homelessness. But since you asked…
I fell off the chasm for a while in 2012. I was given a notice at my inexpensive apartment because the landlord claimed the place was moldy. I was unable to find a comparably priced apartment. I was unable to orient myself psychologically, or financially. You’ll usually find that among people who have ‘really’ been homeless the experience is blurry. I will say the same for myself: the memory is confusing, blurry and embarrassing. Your mind is so dominated by a feeling of time running out to do something – anything.
The Occupy Wall street camps were existent at the time. I put my belongings in storage, and lived at an Occupy camp for two months. I was grateful it was there. It lent some sense of order and significance to my suddenly bottomless reality. I arrived during the waning days of the Occupy movement. The original Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park in New York had been shut down. Occupiers were questioning where the movement was going. The camps were being overrun by supposedly less serious occupiers. It’s true that by the time I arrived the camp in Santa Fe was down to about 20 campers, and most were long-time indigents, with alcohol problems, and other issues related to years of indigence.
It was less an economically diverse Occupy camp than a politicized homeless refuge, by this point. The camps were supposed to be alcohol-free-zones! Let’s say at this point the attitude toward alcohol was permissive. But I never met anyone who was unserious about the movement.
The camp kept up an extremely efficiently-run kitchen. There was always food. There were interesting conversations. There were communal experiences.
Everyone understood the goals behind the movement. Many were angry with the middle class Occupiers, angrier with middle class society in general, and believed that the movement had faltered because of class divisions within Occupy.
I was in the situation myself long enough to see that the truth about homelessness is that it requires living in – and with – constant fear. I actually didn’t drink much myself while I was at the camp, mainly because I always alert with fear. But I could easily see myself becoming a nervous wreck, if the situation had dragged on. One of the campers summed it up in a nutshell when he told me “Getting a good night's sleep on the streets is hard. Passing out on the streets is easy.”
After two months, I moved into an apartment-sharing situation with a new girlfriend, and by splitting the rent we became financially soluble.
I don’t know how this may have influenced my poetry, except insofar as my “dark” poems became even darker.