December 17, 2017

Housing Poem



Telephone rings
Line Two
Pick up
Wednesday morning
Turn up receiver
Control+F, names beginning with “L”
Her name pops up on the screen and
Lo and behold, she’s been holding on the line for months
Mold infected
Inspection rejected
Landlord evicted her with
Cockroach shadows
Projected on mildewy furniture

She’s italicized in bold type
She’s fighting a 30-day notice that might
Keep her on the streets at night
Files are defiled
While she lights matches to keep mattresses from smelling
Her sons huddle over stoves for warmth

In this report
She is a name
On the phone
She answers
We talk
There is only so much I can do
She is no exception to the rule
And all the lawyers we don’t have
Use tools
That lose grip
While people like her are struggling to admit
That their homes are killing them

But I can’t hear her words
Over the emotional commotion that goes on
Around me
She gets
From a slumlord
That charges her and her son more than her neighbors
And make her dial Line 2
I tell her
We’re working on it
We’re only
So many people
In a cramped office
Playing at superheroes
In a society without them

She thanks me for hearing
And not just listening
Even though I can’t tell her much
But that’s enough for now
Her file proves that
We must temper our own steel
And cut through differences until they no longer make a difference

Esteban R. Allard-Valdivieso, 22