Alexis Ivy won the 2018 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship in poetry. On July 24, she read her poetry of homelessness and addiction in the statehouse. Her words are raw and powerful. The sonnets that won her the fellowship appear in the latter half of the reading. You can read a short selection further below.
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A short selection appears below.
The A-Street Shelter: A Crown of Sonnets (xi-xiii)
In a God sense of things, a place of his own,
a man asleep on the bedrock construction
site. It’s ten below. He must sting, his moan
mildewed with booze, he wants nothing from
me. I didn’t want to leave him but I did.
I wish he’d wanted a place to go. Outside
is where I work—and out here people die:
One kid shot— stole pills off the wrong guy,
chicken-choked, heart fails, drunk-falls-down stairs.
Tonight I save no one. I wish I’d given
him mittens, handwarmers, gloves to wear
I wanted to make the run, would have driven
him to shelter so he’d be warmed, yes,
would’ve cleaned the back seat of his sickness.
Would’ve clean the backseat of his sickness
just so I could know the eye of one-eyed
Sid, his eye, torn shut like that, tearless,
how it got to be that way— and why
it took so long for his left lid to wake,
crusted shut each morning, his caged eye.
He asks for socks. I ask him, snowflake
or unpatterned—Warm, he says. A necktie
I get him. His court date is the ninth. No
thanks, he says to a face saving button-
down shirt from the clothing closet. Won’t
take a razor to shave. Flirts, subtle grin,
puts his hand on mine, you have moonstones,
the two nicest eyes I have ever known.
The two nicest eyes I have ever known
sit on a bench. With Kit. I give them
water. It’s beer three so far, chaperone,
two-eyes tell. Do they pretend that they
ration their beers to please my worry? Kit’s
moved on from liquor to Listerine,
her coat is covered in dried bird shit—
I’ve seen her beg, seen her cop drugs, seen
her talk un-slurred, neatly dressed looking
housed. The cops called us with a Code One Ten—
homeless drunk. Not a crime. Not an anything.
They had just ran out of beer. I can
recognize those fleeing detox cries. See
their out-of-money eyes look to me.