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Vastness belongs to the oceans
emptiness, the sky
chill, the bones
hunger, the stomach

and the bodies
stretched out or bent
face up or face down
belong to the streets
I am going to dig through
dumpsters today; alone or
with a fellow aluminum
cowboy.Our treasure is
cans.Thank God for
redemption.Each can is
worth a nickle, and if
we get enough of these
shiny miracles, we can
get a pint of *****,
our oasis in the desert.

I sift through trash bags
full of cat **** and broken dreams.
I find: losing lottery tickets,
broken costume jewelry, unwanted
books, and a ***** magazine.
I examine the jewelry closely,
hoping for a diamond or real pearls;
some silver or gold, something I
can pawn or sell and turn into
liquor- no such luck.
The whole thing smells like
death, and ****, and a
city dump in July.

Sometimes I think it
would be easier to just
quit drinking, but to do it
abruptly could **** me,
the withdraw seizures can be deadly.
As the sun begins to set
on Iowa City, the sky
looks like a butterfly melting.
I haul my black garbage bag, full
of cans, over my shoulder
down the railroad tracks, and
across highway 6.
I stop to ***** behind
a building, then wipe my
face and continue on to
the store- to be redeemed.
Thomas W Case May 18
She used to clean my ears with hydrogen peroxide.
She cut and cleaned my toenails and fingernails.
She shaved my neck and back.
She even popped my zits. When I first went to
her apartment, she had me strip down in the hall,
so that she could wash the clothes I was wearing.
This all made me a bit uncomfortable.
I was sleeping on her couch one night. She came out of her room, wrapped in a blanket, and asked if I would lie down with her.
I did.
We were both naked, and I went to work on her.
She later cried and said,
"I wish I could take your pain away."
At the moment,
I didn't have any.
The next day, after I bought her over a
hundred bucks worth of groceries, she kicked me out.
Her last words were,
"You just want somebody to take care of you."
I'm back in the psyche ward again.
It's my home away from home,
next to jail and the emergency room.
I sat under the bridge the other night.
It was January, and extremely cold.
I was jonesing for a drink—I knew what I had to do.
I had only been out of jail for a
couple of days for another public intox.
I narrowly avoided going back to the can today.
My nut-job girlfriend said,
"Why don't you get us some wine? " "Sure, " I said.
Shaking and sick, I walked a mile to
my favorite store that I steal ***** from.
I arrived, and had a bad feeling, but I
don't pay much attention to feelings anymore.
In and out is always the plan.
A bottle of chardonnay down the front
of the pants, and one in the coat.
I thought I had it. I was wrong.
A customer saw me and snitched me off.
I went with the manager to his office.
A cop showed up shortly afterwards.
I engaged the store-guy with talk of literature.
It turned out he was an
English major.
I wrote down the title of my book,
and slipped it to him. He put the paper
in his wallet. He told the cop that I was very cooperative.
Instead of taking me to jail,
the cop gave me a citation with a
court date on it, and let me go.
Sometimes, providence smiles on me.
On my way back to the apartment,
I was already planning the next store to hit,
I needed a drink.
The cop, from the store, pulled up along side of me,
and said,
"Your girlfriend called, she said she didn't
want you at her place anymore.
All your stuff is in front of her door."
I felt like I'd been run over by a rhino.
The cop said,
"I'll give you a lift, jump in."
When I arrived, there were two loosely
packed bags of clothes weighing around 100 pounds.
There was no way in hell that I could
have carried all that crap eight miles to Iowa City.
I grabbed a back pack, and stuffed it with a pair
of jeans, two shirts, my writing, and a copy of Don Quixote.
I went outside and waved to the cop, then headed towards town.
I finally made it back to the bridge.
I waited to get the nerve to make
my next move—steal wine.
I did it, and with no cork *****,
I opened it with a broken ink pen.
I'm not complaining, it was the needed elixir
and it went down like nectar of the gods.
I drank it quick, it was three degrees out.
Life had to change.
This was getting real old.
Thomas W Case May 11
I met her on the beach in
Actually, it was just a long
strip of sand below the dam.
I was crashing with some
friends that had tents set up
back in the woods.
She wore a red one piece
swimsuit, big sunglasses, and
she drank warm Chardonnay in
the sensual summer sun.
We got drunk together and sang songs.
We walked hand in hand to the
liquor store as evening fell on us like
a warm blanket.
We got back and found an empty tent.
We drank ***** and ****** long into the night.
When morning came crashing in like
an intruder, with thick tongues, we
asked each other's names and laughed.
We spent many hours in the sun on
that strip of sand, swimming in
the river--dodging water moccasins.
When the mood struck us,
which was quite often, we went
back to the woods, and ******
like animals.
Sometimes, providence can be a friend.
Dean and I camped out behind
the shelter in Des Moines.
There was a nice patch of
woods north of the river.
We canned every day to
knock off the shakes.
Summer turned into
Fall and life raked
us in.
Dean moved in with
a friend, and I
went to this woman's

We eventually got
married; it didn't last long.
That's been years ago.
I lost track of Dean for
a long time.
By chance,
we stumbled upon each other via the

******* life!
He has stage 3 colon cancer.
Reality can be
rancid sometimes.
he's still camping, ,
and he has a
woman that loves him.
What more could
you want?
Living in the USA is harder than dying if you are hungry and/or homeless and/or hopeless and/or if the color of your skin is something other than white.

Copyright 2020 Tod Howard Hawks
A graduate of Andover and Columbia College, Columbia University, Tod Howard Hawks has been a poet, a novelist, and a human-rights advocate his entire adult life.
It was a night of manic dreams and
Ear shattering ringers from smoking cigars
Beyond counting.
I thought puffing one would bring me
It dumped me in a hole.
I never stay in one place long enough
To take care of what needs taking care of.
On the hustle from one cloud to the next.
Happiness flooding my veins
Till I can’t take any more of it
Then I spend days in a freezing cold bed
A house that isn’t mine
Stuck in a hole
Ralph McTell, a UK legend singer songwriter, has written a new verse for his famous Streets of London song. In these tough times I think it should go viral:

In shop doorways, under bridges
In all our towns and cities
You can glimpse the makeshift bedding
From the corner of your eye
Remember what you're seeing
Barely hides a human being
We're all in this together
Brother, sister, you and I
not sure if Ralph is going to re-record the song, but the new verse is a masterpiece
there were dandelions on the grass
dear girl, the smell of an Alcatraz flower is fresh on my linen
but sometimes I look back
and wonder if this city wears a too thick a coat
while it struts pantless over the sidewalks of
Macarther Park

there is liturgy mumbled, a woman waving her hands in the air–
Sunday school prayers being learned in Spanish
tri-folded pamphlets on the floor
and gum over the pavement blackened by the cooperative march
of immigrant workers speaking in all tongues and carrying
on their backs, the tower of babel while halted at a red light

heavy cargo trucks speeding down Alameda Street
wearing down the road and the patience of drivers
tents multiplied, and R.V's lining the streets  
the old buildings being torn down and neighboring apartments  getting face-lifts  
more than headshots–
more than a rhinoplasty–
more than the real estate of DTLA–
when you see two kids come out of a tent with their school backpacks on
–you begin to grasp the price

Is this what Keats meant: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever "
even while destitute
the neon pink on their bags seemed like another gift of spring
and their perseverance the paragon of  a psalm of life
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