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James G. Piatt: What Are We Doing About It?

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 09.04.2022.

The Ugly Streets

I roamed the ugly asphalt streets of the unforgiving city

Near where the homeless existed in their cursedness. I

Calculated the number of tears fallen by the side,

Scarlet marks of man’s inhumanity to man,

In every sob of each rusting soul, I heard the sound

Of helplessness, and fear,

In every homeless child’s wail, I heard the sound

Of emptiness and hopelessness, and I wept.

A Sad Life

The homeless lady wrote of the city’s sadness on

torn cobwebs while she sewed her unraveling

sweater with tattered yellow sorrow: Her thoughts

left shadowy tracks on the sidewalk, as her

timeworn bare feet trod over uneven sidewalks like

a sled over broken rocks. The telltale years of her

disillusioned existence written inside the

lines of the sidewalk, echoed into the unforgiving air.

This was not the life she imagined in her youth, she

had hopes of it being better than her troubled

childhood: A rusted cart filled with glass bottles,

metal cans and broken childhood memories, was by

her side as she sat on a broken bench where rusting

nails attached her to the cruel world.

The red rose in her dark veined and weathered hand

emitted a faint rusty odor into the air as the thorns

dug into her flesh. The blood the color of the rose,

dripped from her finger, but the pain remained

hidden within her sorrows.

She was lonely in a crowd of people busily buying

unnecessary things; her cart contained empty

shopping bags, begging to be filled, but that dream

had long passed. People who passed her by, did not

stop to see her, she was just a vague impediment to

their complacency; and existed in an enigmatic

invisibility, a sad metaphor of non-existence like the

nostalgic notes in Chopin’s nocturnes, which floated

across a room and disappeared into the pallid

emptiness of time and space.

She was the remnant of a lost child in the

immeasurable emptiness of the unholy, a shadowy

indistinct figure in a black mirror that refused to

reflect her image: Always vulnerable to life’s

whims, which caused loneliness and wretchedness.

She with hollow eyes and fading mind disturbed the

contentment of others as she conversed in a loud

weeping voice, with her God about the unfairness of

the world.

She desperately searched for reality, but failed to

find it; it had rotted away into unreality a long time

ago. When the heat of the day disappeared, she sat

among shadows in the alley next to a graveyard

where she lived in cardboard penury, listening to the

eerie warbling of night birds and the moaning of

ghosts searching for her.

She felt the discontent pounding of the detached

city’s pulse and remembered the hollow in the old

oak tree where she hid as a child to escape the

sneers of children who had new dresses and blue

laced ribbons in their hair as they skipped to school,

ignoring the thin girl in a patched skirt and ragged


The memories of such sad things never vanished,

but continued into adulthood, inside a shadowy

gasp. She had never had a new dress, ribbons in her

hair, or even a skirt that was not used. She existed

all her life in need, a sad fragmentary note in a

chord missing from an unfinished song all

amounting to nothing.

What were we doing about it?

About the Author: James earned his doctorate from BYU, and his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, SLO. He is a Best of Web nominee and three time Pushcart nominee and has had four poetry books, “The Silent Pond,” (2012), “Ancient Rhythms,” (2014), “LIGHT,” (2016), and “Solace Between the Lines,” (2019), over 1560 poems, five novels and 35 short stories published worldwide in over 250 publications. His poems have been published in magazines such as American Aesthetic, Miller’s Pond, Steam Ticket, Dagda, Phati’tude, Pinwood Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Transnational Lit, Page and Spine, Peeking Cat, El Portal, Voices de La Luna, The Minetta Review, Seventh Quarry, London Grip, Badlands Magazine, Ottawa Arts Review, Front Porch Review, Literary House Review, Nebo, TreeHouse Arts, Westward Journal, Penumbra, as well as many others.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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