Ginger and the Need
She shambles by in vin-
tage thrift store pin-
stripe threadbare and win-
some smile, rootless, adrift
She spots me, grin-
ning at me with an in-
the-know winkish bin-
there-dived that, too. We kin-
dle fragile friendship, cin-
namon stick in cocoa, fin-
ishing each other’s thought, in-
tuitive, this girl, and worth more.
I have meds, in-
temse therapy; she sin-
cerely deserves same. I win-
ce at her need because din-
ner, doctor, care are in-
trinsic parts of my day. Fin-
ish this sentence: “Homeless Gin-
ger deserves less because ______.”
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
We know that many homeless Americans are in dire need of solid therapy and usually some psychiatric care as well. This girl is detached in an odd way – she smells, but not for lack of a bathtub; she’s comfortable in her own aroma soup. She’s off the wall, but no more than I used to be before I got help. She’s homeless and does the dumpster dive; we have that in common from my Bad Old Days. She is a fascinating human being who deserves better. The missing piece of this puzzle? Health care for all Americans.
Hats off to De Jackson, AKA Whimsy Gizmo, for the hyphenated fractious quality. De’s freedom with punctuation and wordplay astonishes me, and I know she will not mind my “borrowing” a device from her toolbox. Check her out – click on her name.
Written for the puzzle prompt at dverse, and thank goodness Mr. Linky is still open! Also in the margins at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and in the Poetry Pantry at Poets United.
Please join with me in engaging the homeless when you have a spare hour. You’ll know whether or not there is a threatening vibe, trust me. There is no sin in stopping the relationship at taking them to lunch and simply listening for an hour… sometimes, that hour is their diamond in an otherwise suck week, and you will be doing a mitzvah.
July 7, 2013 at 8:16 am
Well said, my friend, very well said. Hugs.
July 7, 2013 at 8:18 am
Well expressed, Amy. Those who seek help should definitely find a way to receive it.
July 7, 2013 at 8:32 am
Definitely a puzzle that needs and can be solved…thanks for sharing!
July 7, 2013 at 9:05 am
I like the fractious hypenation . . . the poem is exceptional.
July 7, 2013 at 9:06 am
Love the way you wrote this Amy.
July 7, 2013 at 9:44 am
smiles…i like your hyphens and word play…the homeless have a place inmy heart and i work with them usually in some capacity in any city i got to…more directly when i lived in maryland and volunteered at a shelter weekly…i figure i am one decision different away you know…cant answer that fill in theblank…cause she doesnt deserve less….smiles.
July 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm
ouch on the tooth…glad you are close to moved in though…only the decor…that is not bad at all..thanks for bopping in ma’am…look forward to seeing you back and settled…smiles.
July 7, 2013 at 9:51 am
I don’t always like innovative line breaks, but here i really do, and I love the challenge at the end!
July 7, 2013 at 10:03 am
Your line breaks strike a pitch that suits your content wonderfully. I relate to your interaction with this girl. I especially like your stanza abt. fragile friendship and the cinnamon stick. May our days include a wide diversity of human qualities.
Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
July 7, 2013 at 11:12 am
I think the need for help is common unfortunately. Sweden might have it better in some ways, but those in need of psychiatric help are always last in line….
and the puzzle you present I cannot solve.
Sherry Blue Sky
July 7, 2013 at 11:19 am
Powerful, Amy, that question at the end. That is the heart of it. I too love the challenge at the end. Inspiring to read on a sunday morning. Hey you would love this man….check him out: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201463867108156
July 7, 2013 at 11:39 am
I didn’t even notice the rhyme scheme because I was following the thought. Such effective use of line breaks, particularly ‘bin-/there-dived-that’ and ‘we kin-//dle fragile friendship’. And that question… ~ M
July 7, 2013 at 11:59 am
luckily the homeless over here do get medical treatment… they’re not exactly in the healthcare system but over here it is that those that earn a lot have to pay a lot for the healthcare insurance each month and those that earn not much or nothing have to pay not much or nothing… it’s about caring for each other in a way..
July 7, 2013 at 12:17 pm
De is worthy of mimicking, I always enjoy her wordplay and yours works very well, fractured words for a fractured person. Well done.
July 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm
I was just thinking the other day about the intense poverty that I see all the time on the streets of Oakland, and how hopelessness feeds into frustration and violence–your poem reminded me again of these peoples’ humanity–how do we do this to each other—I so enjoyed the quality of this piece–its feel–so well done–sorry for the long winded comment
July 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm
I find it so scary to think of people without access to healthcare.
July 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm
The form really helps here, the sense of disconnections seeking reconnections…
July 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm
Hi. I TOTALLY know what you mean.
July 7, 2013 at 3:36 pm
Engaging the homeless is easily done in NYC.
It’s a reminder of how lucky I am compared to some.
July 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm
There is no answer to the question because Homeless Ginger could be any of us at any turn of fortune. Great wordplay, strong message.
July 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm
Very noble indeed Amelita! You’ve taken a cause that desperately lacks the support it deserves.Just imagine no homes to go back to.Pitiful! Nicely Ma;am! Keep the good flag flying!
July 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm
Excellent use of hyphens to express the disconnection and alienation. Your kindness is inspiring!
July 8, 2013 at 12:13 am
Keep fighting the good fight!…
July 8, 2013 at 4:14 am
Well done on an important message Amy. I have read of the ‘uninsured’ and like Rowan think it very scary and also very wrong that healthcare is not deemed a human right accessible to all.
July 8, 2013 at 4:53 am
Amen to that, Amy!
July 8, 2013 at 8:26 am
This is brilliant, Amy.
July 8, 2013 at 11:37 am
Brilliant. Cannot move away from all the words to complete, people to meet, and that last line? No answer. It could be me. It could be in some other place where the answer is she was dead before we noticed.
July 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm
Your use of hyphenated words at the end of lines creates an interesting effect – a kind of halt in the flow of words and thought. Then you add the clever twist of rhyming that syllable. This is a wonderful piece of experimentation.
July 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm
A powerful message excellently expressed.
July 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm
Love the way this is written and how the subject tugs at one’s heart. So well done!
July 9, 2013 at 4:03 am
Hi L.P. ~~ I am glad you wrote this. Asking ‘why’ doesn’t do a thing for their immediate need. Like I’m on the way taking my wife to the hospital and I run out o gas. Everyone bogs the trip down by trying to figure out if it is my fault that I ran out of gas. NO, MY WIFE NEEDS TO GET TO THE HOSPITAL NOW . Later help us by teaching me how to not run out of gas.
The homeless need help regardless of fault. After the help let us help them to remain with a home. Do they need education or a skill development. Is it temporary and they still have a job. Perhaps their car needs repair so they can KEEP that job. Etc, etc, etc.
Mrs. Jim and I are active with a group called Family Promise (Google this). This group has local affiliated groups who help homeless families get back on their feet while helping meet their immediate needs. Immediate needs are food, shelter, and medical.
Employment with a meaningful and decent paying job are next. Training may be necessary for this. In the Houston Texas area a car is essential because where we live there is NO LOCAL mass transit system. This is all financed first through charitable donations (personal and corporate) and secondly government programs such as child care and medical help.
Our group takes in three or four families at a time with a goal that they be back on their feet and have a home by three to six months. Families are at least one parent and one or more children. I do fault them because the parent(s) must not have had a criminal background.
Sharp Little Pencil
July 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm
Jim, our church is also involved in Family Promise; we host four families a month for The Road Home. Lex and I often volunteer; we do things like teaching the kids to bake bread or brownies… their parents have the option but tend to watch movies, very disappointing. Anyway, one teen had never broken an egg before, and she was delighted that she didn’t get any shell in the bowl… she was glowing when the homebaked chocolate chip cookies came out of the oven. We waited for them to cool off and talked about school, pressures… one of the girls is a lesbian and she whispered it so her mom wouldn’t hear, how sad is that? We are open about having a lesbian daughter, so she felt like it was safe space.
I want to get involved in ESL courses, since I am semi-fluent in Spanish. Now that we live at the parsonage, this will be possible, since I’ll have more access to our one car. Lex only needs car occasionally, so it’s a great arrangement. He’s next door and often comes home for lunch!
Thanks for all your work with Family Promise as well. I think there’s a spiritual component to the best of marriages, because when God is at the center, neither partner competes for that position, you know? Peace to you and yours… and prayers for all without a roof over their heads. Amy
July 9, 2013 at 9:43 am
Health care does need to be revamped, but I fear we are headed the wrong way with Obama Care. There is so much the public doesn’t know, HOW it is affecting the hospitals, etc. The mental-health issue with the homeless is going to explode and they NEED more than a short stay in the ER where they have a free meal and bed for a period of time… leave and come back the next day! It is astronomically expensive and the ER is unable to get them placed as there is NO place to send thm. Most “homes” (state run or otherwise) have closed down! This is NO solution, but the only one Obama has. It doesn’t work and is already a train wreck. I have FULL compassion, but this is not a cure or even a band-aid.
There are very hard-hitting questions that don’t always have a good solution. HOW do we care for everyone? Do we take from the so called “rich” and give to the “poor”… even those poor who do NOT help themselves (we have many of those taking advantage of the system). Do we really give it to the central government who has a terrible record of running anything? Name ONE program that works well.
Not trying to argue your point. I agree with you. But it is in the HOW I question. It feels good to think we are doing something… but burying our head and thinking, “well, at least we are doing something” is very dangerous. Especially when it will lead to worse, not better. Politics MUST be taken out of the equation and people who do this for a living and have “been there” need to step up and be listened to and trusted. Sigh. Will it ever be fixed? I truly fear it will not if we allow the government to take care of us…
Just to clarify – health care for all (on some level) is a great idea. And we are a quasi socialized country already – it isn’t a bad thing. It is when it steps over a line that it becomes dangerous.
Hope you don’t mind my long response. As always, you have your finger on sensitive issues 🙂 Keep it up.
Sharp Little Pencil
July 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm
Margaret, the more in-depth reply, the better. I always hope to provoke thought and discussion! I believe that the Affordable Care Act is a mess… that the Prez made concessions that were not at all well thought out.
I’m a proponent of Health Care For All. Just take the “over 65” out of Medicare. Believe me, when all those members of Congress are on the same health care as we are, you’ll see lots of action. Now before we get into the states vs. Feds argument, hear me out.
The up sides of this are: All the people actually doing WORK will still be working; it’s the members of health insurance company boards making hundreds of thousands a year to sit in on meetings who will be out in the cold. Also, Medicare has the lowest administrative cost in the country: 3%. I realize that would grow in numbers, but perhaps not in percentage, and we would put all those insurance co. workers (and make them Americans, please!) back to work. Nurses and doctors, too. Also, I would call for fewer specialties with doctors: I had to get wax pulled out of my ear… had to be referred to an ENT for an extra copay, then got a bill for $150 because it wasn’t covered under my plan. Now I ask my PCP to just yank it out, no fancy sucking machine, and to not code it as part of my visit. I know this is cheating, but he doesn’t m ind doing it and thinks the cost was ridiculous. I’m making an activist out of my doctor!!
One more thing: AFA DID put the states in charge of the decision to “buy into” the exchanges and receive millions in Fed money for Medicare in exchange. Wisconsin’s gov said “no,” and now thousands more will be going off the ‘Badgercare’ rolls, including many with mental health needs. That’s part of the reason I think National Health would level the playing field. They’re already doing it for seniors, even though it needs tweaking, it’s far better than what states are doing.
Thanks again for this, Margaret. I respect your POV and do understand your frustration over Federalization of so much, but maybe this would be worth a try. Too many amendments, as usual, made this current Obamacare thing a mess… Thanks, Amy
July 26, 2013 at 10:00 pm
Amy 🙂 So many payers Medicaid especially, barely meet costs… and now the “quality standards” which are hard to define MUST be met or they won’t pay… etc. It is just a mess. Linking payments with outcomes… not a great idea. It gets so convoluted – I’m all for positive change – and the first thing, IMO, is malpractice reform (Obama care did NOTHING about that) I am on vacation (finally 🙂 for a week. Glad we can always share here.
Sharp Little Pencil
July 27, 2013 at 8:27 am
Margaret, I so agree about malpractice. If a doctor does something horrendous, sure, give the victim something, but not the person’s whole LIFE of work. And sanction the doctor to work in a community free clinic for a certain number of rotations, with his/her colleagues keeping track.
Malpractice reform not being touched was strictly partisan – as was half the bill. Or more. EVERYONE is in Big Pharma’s and the insurance companies’ pockets, thanks to Citizens United and huge contributions on both sides. Mental health “quality standards” are a farce. Right on, Margaret! Amy
July 9, 2013 at 9:51 am
Of course, I realize this poem is about so much more…
finishing each other’s thought, in-
tuitive, this girl, and worth more.
seeing someone in a place you once found yourself, miserable and alone. Needing help desperately, deserving better. Forgotten. People afraid of you. I am sure your compassionate eyes meant a lot to her. That is if this was truly a person you saw and not one you were remembering. I do think it is the later.
I see homeless on the side of the road. Used to give a bit of cash all the time, sometimes food. But it seems the same ones are in the same places day in, day out … for over three years now and they are there all day at times. That is hard for me to understand. Are there not programs to help them… or have they gone the way of the state run homes (mentioned above)?
Again, state is ALWASY better than centralized government. Why is not our tax payer money being funneled to our local areas where we would have more say? I fear our voice gets lost when it gets handed over to Washington D.C. Just ONE of the many mismanagement situations (in my opinion).
July 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm
Usual pungent on the nose brilliance here – you may have copied her style but your voice am your own! Homeless is only for the grace of God goeth me! Love you, sistah
Susie Clevenger (@wingsobutterfly)
July 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm
I have searched the streets for homeless youth and thankfully was able to bring a few back home. This piece is a powerful statement of the need for so much more than physical sustenance for the homeless.
July 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm
I recognize De’s style – the word breaks are cool (did you mean intense therapy?) ~
However its the message that drives your words ~ I feel for the girl and people in her situation ~
July 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm
I love that style of writing which is new to me. It really works in your hand. I like, too, that you have a commentary and the important messages contained in both.
Ginger reminds me all too closely of my lovely niece who has recently found a home. (She’s in the US and we are in the UK)
All the best 🙂
Sharp Little Pencil
July 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm
Glad your niece has found a good home. It’s not easy. My friend’s brother, who is schizophrenic and would be a street person were it not for his brother’s love and tenacity and the support of many, many friends, is also in a good home. I think that’s where this poem came from… that “There for the grace of God goes my friend’s brother” felling. Thanks so much, Amy
July 29, 2013 at 10:07 am
Thank you. Friends (and family if one is lucky enough. S wasn’t) are so important – to us all.
Sharp Little Pencil
July 29, 2013 at 11:30 pm
I have a bit of family, but my sisters generally think I’m strange, what with my politics and activism and all. They’re sure that one day, I’ll “grow up” and join their “real world,” which is all about 401Ks and owning stuff. Yeah, that’s gonna happen. Our biggest luxury is this computer, named Sadie after my old cat!
There’s the family you are born with and the one you make. Few from the first group make it into the second, particularly with creative people. Thanks, hon.
July 10, 2013 at 11:42 pm
Love this, Amy. (Thanks so much for the shout out.)
Especially drawn to:
“some smile, rootless, adrift”
dle fragile friendship”
“I have meds, in-
tense therapy; she sin”
LOVE all those gorgeous rhymes. And your message, of course…so important. Love your work, girl. And your heart.
July 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm
Amelita, you are an awesome girl for sure. I love how you used the line breaks in this, it adds to its passion.