Mary C McCarthy | Poems for the homeless

From Bedlam to the State Pen

Here there is no asylum
Shuttered and empty
The worst and best of them
Forgotten, erased
All the unlisted
Inhabitants released
Expelled, scattered
Into the streets
Invisible, caught
Like sand in drifts
Under the bridges
And overpasses
Passed over, voiceless
Faceless, nameless
Caught like fish
In the nets of factory ships
And stowed deep
Hidden in prisons
Placed, replaced
No room here
For congratulation
What is worse
To make asylums prisons
Or prisons asylums?
Either way will serve to keep
The out of sight
Out of mind
Invisible, uncounted
Impossible to find                   



can reach me now
behind this wall of fog
I have become my own ghost
all my sins and sorrows
strapped to my back
I sit motionless and gray
too cold to move
stalled and stuck in place
while through the fog
I can see the living
strange and distant
a moving frieze in full color
who speak words I can’t hear
in languages I no longer

Behind the lines
in my olive drab
I see your colors and your
sunlit flesh
like a memory of some
impossible bright world
I won’t recover



One man caught too far out
Pulled under
The indifferent swell
His last struggle seen
The sirens wail down the sand
The searchers pass
Cutting a grid across
The dark surge
The helicopter beats
A tight circle
Widening, narrowing
Over and over

Not far away
Children scatter
At the surf’s edge
Laughing and calling
In glad abandon
Mothers cradle and hold
Their youngest
Rocking them
in the pool’s
tame water-
some crowd up close
but most continue
their pleasures unaware
of the loss of one
more stranger-
the newscaster said
no one was
reported missing-
he might have always been


Outsider, Lost

I could have spotted him
a room away, he did everything
but wear a sign.
Even his clothes betrayed him,
hanging awkwardly, as though
they were borrowed, as though
he had nothing to call his own.
His pants were smeared
with ink and his pockets
jammed with papers.
He wore a thick wool sweater,
as though he lived
somewhere it wasn’t August.
He only wanted, he said,
to know where he was,
so he’d know how to get
back home. His face
loose and nervous
on his skull, he carried
a thick stench of cigarette smoke,
like the badge of a club
we couldn’t join.
But I recognized him well
as I would recognize any face
in my mirror.



Out on the stoop
with everything I own
in plastic garbage bags
arranged in a circle at my feet
evicted from the only home I had
by collapses and reversals
so profound and sudden
it was already too late
for anything but prayer.
Even now I don’t believe
I can get back in.
I have the keys
but all the locks are changed
and no one on this street
can see me
down so low
and going nowhere
all day long

Mary McCarthy says that she has always been a writer, though she spent most of her professional life working as an RN. Her writing has appeared in many print and online journals, including Third Wednesday, The Ekphrastic Review, Califragile, the Silver Birch Press, and Earth’s Daughters. She has an electronic chapbook,Things I Was Told Not to Think About,” available as a free download from Praxis magazine.

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 Photo of dead asylum seeker Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and daughter by Julia De Luc.


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