Pallet is a social purpose company on a mission to build equal opportunity access to housing and employment. Elevating the voices of people with lived experience with homelessness, recovery, and incarceration is integral to Pallet’s mission. In addition to telling the personal stories of their team and people living in Pallet shelter villages, they aim to raise the voices of system-impacted and marginalized persons everywhere.
We live in tent cities behind nylon walls, huddled in wool blankets in doorways of neglect. We live in secured high-rises casting shadows below, houses flooded with desire, homes gated in fear. We live with slumlords and in public housing too. We live alone in our minds, wandering along pathways edged by open chains.
We work for corporate greed, We dumpster dive for food, We work for non-profits to build a better world, We ask for spare change, sometimes shoot-up to heal a gaping wound. We are honest laborers, the shrunken middle class, We do not ask for handouts, but will reach for a helping hand.
We race upstairs chasing freedom and we lounge on city streets, We stand in long lines at food banks, waiting for leftovers we can’t afford, We walk in parks and shop behind gilded walls. Sometimes we steal in the night, while white collars take in the light to line their coffers gold.
Sometimes life feels darker than the backside of the moon; we watch her catch her breath as she rushes to soften the edges of what we call urban blight. Sometimes we feel the ecstasy of unity, especially on nights like tonight.
We are a city on shifting tectonic plates, frayed at the edges, clothed in attitudes of love and dismay. We are a city of others, separate and near. We are teachers and students alike, but webs twist around our minds, our lives, isolating us from those who look and think more different than we’d like.
We are all here, polarized by red and blue fear. We must break down the walls, Step out of the shadow of Them, Other, They. We must hold our sister’s gaze, grasp our brother’s hand. Link our minds to overcome judgments about what we think is right.
We are all here; the me in them. The drum beat of our city, the heartbeat of Seattle, the energy that makes our diversity vibrate with rhythm that unites.
I converted a section of the poem into a Photoshop brush and created a
mandala. I then layered the mandala with a pattern and clipped out a section.
A conversation with my psychiatrist inspired me to write the poem. He asked me why my feelings of hopelessness led to thoughts of suicide. I answered that I thought there was no point in living. He asked me, “What is the point of dying?”
What is the point of living
With the struggle for sleep?
But what is the point of dying?
What is the point of living with a storm twisting inside me, turning itself inside out and leaving
The streets bleeding gold rivers of dirt that seep
Through the sheets with the sweat? A fallen rose, dying
Scatters its petals in the gutter. What is the point of living
With the waters that keep
Rising and flooding the banks of my eyelids, threatening
The lowland cottage that I built inside myself, seeping
Up through the floors, ruining the ribbons that I keep
Tucked away in drawers, ruining the snapshots of summer dying
Into fall and winter? What’s the point of living
In the deserted streets of my mind, where I weep
And wander searching
For torn packets of sugar, scattering
Themselves in the wind, searching for fragments that leap
From my fingertips, searching with the sound of lightning dying
In the distance? What is the point of living
With the cockroaches that creep
Down the walls of this tiny room inside my heart, crawling
Across my skin? It’s 3 a.m., time for housecleaning.
The pile of dishes inside the sink is deep.
I toss out the tulips dying
On the windowsill, and I struggle to keep
the conversation in mind about the urge to leap.
Perhaps the point of living
Is to struggle to the point of dying.
My great-grandmother had a younger brother who volunteered for the Iowa National Guard just after the Pancho Villa expedition into Mexico. After America became embroiled in World War I, he was sent to Europe to fight in the trenches. He was injured in July of 1918 and died from his injuries in France, where he is buried.
Since learning about him, I have been researching his life and experiences. He wrote many letters home which have been saved for posterity.
Recently I watched a film, They Shall Not Grow Old, by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame. It is an incredible movie. It is about the First World War, using film recorded more than a hundred years ago during the war. The soldiers come to life. It is amazing the technology and techniques used to make the documentary.
It inspires me to create similar projects of my own. I want to tell the story of great-great-uncle who died in France. I want the world to know.
Neysa has been working on getting the video and audio right for quite awhile, and thankfully she has persevered and captured her poem in quality high definition for posterity. Please watch or give it a listen, or both. Bex, by the way, is a fan.
Endings and beginnings can be bittersweet times of reflection. In this moment I’m pondering both; I recently moved out of the intentional community house I’ve lived in for the past five years. One of my favorite parts of living in our community was house dinner. Every Tuesday, we would gather to share a meal with the housemates, ranging from 5-10 people (you’d be surprised how many people you can fit in a 5 bedroom house!). I wrote this poem a couple weeks ago, in honor of our last house dinner. It’s filled with sweet and delicious memories from my time living with beloved community.
The Last House Dinner by Bex Lipps
Family is who gathers at your table Breaking fresh baked bread Filling each bowl to the brim before Holding hands for the ritual ……HOORAY!
Many meals over many years We weekly circled round this table Sharing the pulp of our hearts, The labor of our hands Cooking for each other is a love language And we are fluent
With raucous cackling We laugh at ourselves and our own absurdity Was it even house dinner if your abs don’t ache? Laughter is our medicine, The doses plentiful and strong
Oh, drench me in hollyhock And feed me to the hungry queers Devour me with a side of roasted vegetables Drizzled with balsamic memories I will feed you homemade cookies Until your soul is fully satisfied If you promise to remember This feeling of home