Saturday, August 13, 2005

"Spare Change" Poetry

Those of us who are city-dwellers are familiar with "Spare Change," a newspaper sold on the streets by homeless, or formerly homeless people, to provide them with a source of income. I picked up a copy a couple days ago. Did you know there is a poetry section?

Here's one I like. It's on page 6 of the August 4 issue:

After the Crash

people light candles
in a small town,
wrap yellow ribbons
around street posts
and trees. Stores
close. Friends
wander in a daze
stand in small
circles. One reads
from a letter the
victim wrote the
day before: "summer
has been great,
between performing
at Carnegie Hall
(I got roses) and
attempting to get my driver's license,
pedestrians beware."

Lyn Lifshin

I am compelled to read this poem over and over because of that last cryptic line. What does it mean? Was the "victim" killed as a pedestrian by a driver, thus making the line a poignant ironic statement? Or was s/he a driver? Was anyone else involved? We are given just enough information to understand the town's grief over the loss of a talented, young person, and that's it. This short poem successfully captures the emotion of loss and grief simply by painting an image.


Anonymous said...

Hey Amy,

Thanks for posting this.

It has been a quite a while since I’ve read such excellent poem. :)

Just like you, I have not idea if he/she was the driver or the pedestrian. But if I really have to guess, I will go for irony i.e. he/she was the pedestrian.

Amy said...

Yes, I also like this poem very much.

If anyone wonders if poetry is still relevant in our postmodern society, they only need to look in these tiny publications that come from all walks of life to know that, even today, so many people need poetry to express themselves, and to deal with their own realities.

Anonymous said...

even today, so many people need poetry to express themselves, and to deal with their own realities.

Good point!

Poetry is really a blessing to Mankind. I just don’t understand why there are people who think poetry is boring.

But frankly, I hate accounts and I think they are boring. Oops!

Gilbert Koh said...

Hmmm .... two fatal poems in a row? Coincidence, or are you getting morbid on us? :)

Amy said...


I don't know what's up with the poetry about death. Makes me wonder what my subconscious is up to in making these choices. :-)

dave said...

wow, I'm really surprised the homeless have such.. entrepreneurial spirit.

(surfed to your blog from blogexplosion btw)

Danny said...


velma said...

i have just discovered your blogspot today. and, i'm so happy i did. this last poem was excellent.