“Got any quarters?”

Every day or night
I encounter three or four
homeless persons in the street,
asking me for a quarter or more.

My heart aches, sinks,
knowing it has gotten
used to them, and passes
ignoring their usual
demand for changes,
awkwardly responding,

sorry, I’ve got no changes.

My mind, however,
has no problem judging them
without even offering one cent;

why must
I pay for their addictions?

It questions.

I only see them buy
cigarettes, cans of beers,
and desperately wanting more of these,
not even a pizza!

It judges.

And my heart complains,

whatever happened
to unconditional giving
?!

My mind argues,

I can’t give changes
to every homeless person
I meet in the street everyday;
I can’t afford,
and I only cary a debit card anyway;
in this hell-like city for the 99 per cent,
I’m not the only one who runs away from their eyes
or who harshly judges their lives;
everyone does it,
you must accept that dear heart;
let the government worry about it—
you’ve already paid your taxes!

Heart screams.
Hates the indifference.

Poverty stinks, especially
when you encounter it in this
“land of plenty;” often cut out
from Hollywood’s super script,
you see it naked in the street.

Poverty is oppressive,
just as a shameful wealth gap is depressive.

Such is life, a bittersweet cliche,
full of joy and disgust.

“Got any quarters?” 

Let’s just answer yes or no,
without judging the homeless
because we don’t know
what we will face soon or later in our lives.

***

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8 thoughts on ““Got any quarters?”

  1. another great piece presented nicely 😀
    and my god! what a beautiful heart you have got 🙂 [no kidding]

    it sure is difficult ot ignore a homelss person asking for a qarter.
    But we, the rational people, learn quickly enough that there is no end
    to the compassionate giving – for THEY will only keep asking.

    I am lucky, I should say, that we don’t find any homeless people here among us.
    But when I go overseas, it becomes really difficult –
    My compassionate heart just screams like yours
    and I end up giving if I am on a different route – for I know the chances of bumping onto the same person and the same person asking again will be rare.
    I totally ignore people on my regular route, with experience I know, they will ask again and again – and it will never end.
    I am no millionnaire – how can I give unconditionally every day!!!???
    but there again, the NOT GIVING leaves a bitter taste in me for the rest of the day.
    a lose-lose situation whatever way !!!!

    1. Thank you Amira!! 🙂 Am glad you like it.

      Yes, this is such a difficult topic for me. I go through the guilt trip almost everyday … and I just had to find away to channel that guilt… and this poem was the result.

      Life is tough as much as it is fun. 😦 🙂

      Yes, the homeless situation here is quite appalling …

      …poverty is not really a foreign subject to me. I’ve seen it in many forms in my own country, but to see it worse in places like NYC, DC, LA, Boston, etc, some of the richest and most known cities in the world, is not only disturbing, but shocking… The America I knew when I was back home through the images I used to see in Hollywood movies, and the America I know now are completely far from each other; I come here, and the realty strikes me down like a lightening. The same reaction I had once I ran away from the ideal India I created after watching Bollywood movies growing up. Prior to getting exposed to indie movies and documentaries, I had this romantic view of India where everyone is happy jolly, singing and having fun, life smoothly running, etc, thanks to Bollywood. Now, I even feel guilty watching fantasy movies in general lol. …. As humans we like to deceive ourselves; it’s great to think BIG, but not at the cost of forgetting the realty on the ground.

      ….. anyway, there is poverty everywhere, this form or another, and when you find yourself in a position where you can’t do much about it, you feel this pain I can’t explain.

      1. you have explained your pain beautifully and i am sure any and all humans will feel the same pain – some may not be able to explain it as well as you have.
        and some may not have the same level of empathy.
        but i am sure everyone of us feel it within us.

        i was in the States recently, in Washington DC –
        that was my first visit in the mighty country
        before going there i was apprehensive. had sort of an image about USA
        USA in huge big letters.

        but going there living among the natives, travelling in the metro & buses
        talking and walking the streets – i felt home, as “home” as I feel in any other country.
        for me now the USA is just usa 😀

        we humans are the same everywhere –
        some in poverty – some rich beyond fantasy
        and now I believe, the bigger the country the more you will see of both.

        i sometimes am glad i live in a small country 🙂
        almost everyone knows everyone else –
        and as a community we help each other from sinking …
        [God!!! why do I write so much?] 😀

      2. … you didn’t write so much, what are you talking about??? 😀 I want more!! lol … I like when you write your thoughts in verse form, your love for poetry is incontestable. 🙂

        I like what you said about empathy. That was a great way to look at it. 🙂 I agree with you that we all feel empathy in our own ways; it’s what makes us humans, even if some of us repress it [or act as if we dont have it] due to this or that reason. [I recommend you watch this vid: http://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_rifkin_on_the_empathic_civilization.html :)]

        I agree too that the bigger the country, the bigger the problems.. and the less people feel connected—but that depends on what kind of socio-political system you have in place because you can find some tiny places that have problems bigger than their sizes. 🙂

        ..sometimes we think money will solve all our problems, but it may in fact worsen it. I often wonder what I would do if I were rich … most likely the richer you get the more distant you become from such street “problems” … you won’t even have time or access to see homeless ppl, beggars, etc, the higher you ascend … often you are either in your private jet or in your latest Bentley that shields you from such “nuances.” … you will b busy living your fantasy while rome is burning. … And this thought really scares me.

        Am not saying there aren’t rich people who care about the poor; some of them do redistribute their wealth in such a generous way; some invest in socially responsible businesses; some do charities; some provide job opportunities that benefit everyone involved, etc, all actions that I admire … it just that as an individual the level of direct exposure you will have to poverty will be such a minimum as you climb up, and you will more likely forget that some people only eat a meal in one day or in two days. You can easily get disconnected from realty as a result of your high-powered living status. And when that happens you may not care much about what is happening around you … I think empathy is better felt when you have a direct contact to the situation that affects your feelings.

  2. Elyas….you write what I think. Thank you so much for putting my thoughts into words. This is such a difficult situation. I, too, have given, then pass by the same person again and again. What to do? It happens more in the larger cities than in my small town. I want to help everyone, but can’t. When I tell them I don’t have money, I nearly choke back tears after I pass by. This situation weighs heavily on my heart.
    @Amira…..I am sooo glad you see the USA as usa! 😉 You are right. We are just people. We are cut from the same cloth.

    1. Thank you Judy for sharing your thoughts and for your kind words! Am glad to know this piece speaks to you as much as it did to me! I agree this is a difficult situation. We just have to do what we can, I guess. Happy Holidays! 🙂

  3. This is Super-Awesome post… I am Speechless, I wish to see this world without poverty(Everyone should be fed,clothed,housed).. Hoping for good .. 🙂 ..

    Thank you Elyas for sharing this inspiring post

    1. Yes, it would b nice to see a poverty-free world, but unfortunately there is always going to be inequality as long as the systems we have put in place continue the way they are; at least it would be great if we dont let the rich get richer as the poor get poorer. Thank you Khushbu! Am glad you like it! 🙂

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