The gutter is not where I’m from. Yes, I been called a statistic, and treated like a bum. Looked through and talked to as if homeless means I’m dumb. B’cuz I live in the trenches surviving off society’s crumbs. I earned a “Purple Heart,” yet unhoused in the slums. Homelessness attacks the body and soul like a bomb. I was starving in Hanoi during most governors’ senior proms. I served my country and lost friends in the jungle of Vietnam. Being a POW/MIA, trust me, was not a field trip. It seems I’m still at war over veteran benefits. Ask any military vet, theres always some shit. Made the ultimate sacrifice while mercenary politicians got rich. I am a homeless warrior one of the forgotten who never quits. To stay safe we homeless sometimes form cliques. It’s how we minimize risk, but make no mistake, harsh conditions still exist. Our silence and invisibility, for legislators, would be bliss.
I’ve been robbed several times, harrassed and kicked. My mind ravaged by internal wars. Which one? Take your pick. Veterans affairs? A tax-payer scam and a political trick. Far too-many veterans are wounded mentally and physically sick. Ugly memories of war flash by like an action flick. My spirit salvaged by a service dog name Rick. His unconditional love helps me tick. There’s healing in his hugs, kindness in his licks. He barks at any stranger holding a stick.
I hated the bottle but loved the pills, to numb the guilt and pain I feel. Deserved or not, make believe or real. It’s a physiological battle and a physical ordeal, sadly not covered by my G.I Bill. Again I can’t overstate that “shit can get real.” When you’re cold, wet, and missing meals, each day is struggle and it’s all up hill. My skin is not so thick though my heart is galvanized steel, meaning it’s difficult to communicate the emotions I feel. How is it there is no sanctuary for the homeless and mentally ill?
Each day I exhaust from dodging unfriendly fire, living without the freedom I fought for, the things I require. I see those who send us to war “for liberty” are still liars, true to form government cuts and cover-ups never expire. Some days I stand on 9th and Empire with a sign that reads: “mechanic for hire,” praying that one person would judge my effort, not my attire. Though the world is round most days I fall flat. Sometimes I suffer panic attacks—lose my fragile grip on reality and react. Take cover behind bushes and start shooting back. And I can’t afford the meds that will keep me on track.
In the shadows of my mind I can hear grenades blasting. Headshrinks call it “flashin,” the equivalent to two trains crashin.
My worldly possessions in a small bundle. Sometimes in my sleep I scream and mumble. Again I experience the fear of crawling through jungles. I am not a silent soldier nor am I as rigid as bones. Sending out an S.O.S for a vet, homeless and alone.
Douglas Levon Dawkins aka Truth N. Poetry is a poet and writer born and raised in the Bay Area. Prior to his incarceration, he was homeless, and says poetry and art have helped him in his lifelong battle with depression. He is currently incarcerated in California.