This piece appeared November 24, 2015 at the blogpost of L.A. Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez on the LA Public Library website: http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/every-road-should-come-end-place-called-home
Every road should come to this end:
A place called home.
When you don’t have one
the expanse of sky is your roof,
the vacant lots and sidewalks your living room.
Every city, your city.
When you speak, you speak for the country.
In the wrinkled faces and the sun-scarred eyes
mother earth calls us to fury.
Every child without a home
is everyone’s child.
The daily murders go unanswered:
To die of cold in sunny California.
To starve in New York City,
the restaurant capital of the world;
to have no coat on the Broadway of coats.
The crimes pile up as high as the mountains
of grain that are warehoused and stored away
from those who need it.
A mother’s child is taken away for neglect
because she can’t pay rent
and eat at the same time.
Children born of a labor of love are condemned
for the lack of labor.
War veterans crawl through city veins,
once vital, our heroes, now discarded.
Their every road should come to this end.
A place called home.
Most cities, and Los Angeles was one of them, have been criminalizing the homeless, pushing them out of public spaces, harassing them, removing their meager possessions, tossing them away like thrash, and those who resist get jail… or a bullet—as Charly "Africa" Leundeu Keunang did on the streets of Skid Row or Brendan Glenn in Venice, both by police.
Instead of criminalizing the homeless, we should criminalize homelessness. It should be a crime against society for anyone to be without a home. Yet here we are, in the 21st century, as homeless encampments grow in and around our neighborhoods, and RVs and campers find nightly spaces in abandoned streets, and whole families move from living rooms or garages to the streets
What does a poet have to say about this?
Most people don’t expect poets to speak out on such issues. But I’m a living person with my own authority and a resident of this earth. First and foremost. Poetry is how I take care of “business,” the business of ideas, images, stories, this business of speaking out.
As the mayor and city council grapple with homelessness during the holiday season, and predictions of the strongest El Nino effect on record coming down with rains and cold, let me speak on this with a revolutionary poet’s heart.
It’s time to stretch the parameters of our social and economic system, to push it beyond its own restraints, its own contrived scarcities, where the rich get richer and poorer get streets, jail or death. The encampments are not results of “natural” disaster—although such disasters affect them the most. Poverty and its deepest expression, homelessness, are largely the outcome of man-made laws, practices, policies, or lack thereof.
We’re living the “lies” of the system. Mortgages, the wage system, credit, borders, racial inequities, class divisions, profits, are illusions of a society that seem more real than the real. People have died and killed for these illusions. We hang on, for example, to the illusion of homeownership, where banks and other holders of mortgage derivatives really own properties, and many of us are one house note away from losing them.
Borders—man-made, not God-made—and belief systems (again, human interpretations, even if rather elaborate) has led to more wars, deaths and destruction. These are not from nature or whatever you think God is—they’re not from creation or Creator.
They are the fantasies of human beings cloaked to appear real. It’s time the veils were lifted; it’s time for true revelations.
Nature’s own laws are regenerative, abundant, in a constant weave. Nature is our true “university.” Yes, nature can be destructive—earthquakes, floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes. And there are poisons under cover of beauty. Think of mushrooms—the most alluring are often the most dangerous. There is death, but as part of birth and rebirth. The point is nature’s laws can be understood, and with study, trial and error, hard work, and advancing technology, we can work within these laws to fly, to build up to the sky, to fathom the deepest oceans and further reaches of space.
Why can’t we do that with society? Human thinking and shaping is still necessary. It just needs to be aligned with nature’s own limits and parameters. Freedom to do anything is the appreciation of these limitations (you can fly, but you have to work within the laws, limitations and openings, of aerodynamics).
Instead, so-called civilization has established an increasingly complex myriad of paper laws that purposely (these are no accidents) perpetuate fewer and fewer people with more power and wealth, and the rest to developing stages of deprivation. We’re seeing the wide-scale devaluation of life. And what happens when someone is homeless? We often act as if it’s his or her fault. Even mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse are products of man-made chemicals and profits.
And add to this the human-borne stressors that drive many of us mad and addictive.
Alignment is the next phase of an integrative, whole and healthy world. Everyone talks about integration and health, but few get to the roots of the brokenness as endemic to the system itself—or how the roots of moving away from the fractured and wounded “body” requires alignments between resources and human beings, technology and what’s possible, our dreams and reality.
It’s time to challenge the “sacred” cows of so-called free enterprise (none of this is free) and private property (unlike billionaires who spend millions to convince us otherwise).
Let’s imagine a world where everyone is properly fed, clothed and housed; have the highest levels of education and health (at no cost); and where there are no inequalities between races, classes, genders, cultures, disabilities, or sexual orientations. Let’s imagine a place where music, art, dance, theater, poetry, and creative expression is everywhere, for everyone.
This means not settling for less in the richest country in the world, when we deserve the best our brains, our geniuses and the sweat of our brow can bring forth united with nature and our own natures.
And let’s prepare a new generation of leaders that takes up this challenge to its fullest conclusion—the freeing up of the human condition from the narrow confines of man-made laws and flaws, foibles and dramas, greed and avarice. So every road leads to home, to safety, to peace, and connection.
That’s a poet speaking….