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(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994 / Andernach)

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Flophouse

you haven't lived
until you've been in a
flophouse
with nothing but one
light bulb
and 56 men
squeezed together
on cots
with everybody
snoring
at once
and some of those
snores
so
deep and
gross and
unbelievable-
dark
snotty
grosssubhuman
wheezings
from hell
itself.
your mind
almost breaks
under those
death-like
sounds
and the
intermingling
odors:
hard
unwashed socks
pissed and
shitted
underwear
and over it all
slowly circulating
air
much like that
emanating from
uncovered
garbage
cans.
and those
bodies
in the dark
fat and
thin
and
bent
some
legless
armless
some
mindless
and worst of
all:
the total
absence of
hope
it shrouds
them
covers them
totally.
it's not
bearable.
you get
up
go out
walk the
streets
up and
down
sidewalks
past buildings
around the
corner
and back
up
the samestreet
thinking
those men
were all
children
once
what has happened
to
them?
and what has
happened
to
me?
it's dark
and cold
out
here.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003


Read poems about / on: dark, together, children, hope, death, light, child

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Comments about this poem (As The Sparrow by Charles Bukowski )

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  • Ray Schreiber (5/10/2011 11:02:00 PM)

    I like this unvarnished portrait of destitution. The lines ring true, from the unpleasant realities of sleeping in a room full of men with constitutions under attack from poor diets and substance abuse to the listless wanderings up and down the streets. Perfect.

    3 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Robert Jackson (3/2/2008 4:38:00 PM)

    I have been homeless for six months before reading this man and i love hime

  • Bryan Manning (10/6/2005 4:29:00 AM)

    Brings to mind Stephan Crane's The Men in the Storm and deftly evokes the same sinking despair for the marginalized, those who rot in cold lonliness.

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