The Writing On The Floor: Poetry of the Homeless in Dublin

by Lee Cross

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For about 2 years in Dublin there has been a tactic used by the homeless, and the tragically addicted, of writing their thoughts in chalk on the floor of the two busiest shopping streets (Grafton and Henry – if you are aware of this part of the world).

Do people read it? That is the question. I did read it, or have read it, but not for sometime.

The first fellow I saw do it (a man who’s face, name and mind I will never know), wrote something that really moved me. It was not a plea for money, or attention; nor was it motivated by desperation for attention – it was something that appeared to have burst out of him.

He didn’t talk about himself, but he talked about the craziness of the world that allowed him to exist, sleeping on the streets, with next to no prospects, never to be offered the chance of redemption that should surely be available to one and all.

To this day I wish I had written down his words, I wish I had looked in that mans eyes and asked him to stand next to me… but I didn’t.

Words have power, there is no doubt, but where does that power come from? Since that first man, many others now write on the Dublin streets… they talk about themselves… they deny addiction, even though it’s evident in everything they say and do, from the shake in their in text to their oversized (often tiny) clothes…

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In truth, they are just trying anything to survive, and so they write. Now they use brightly coloured chalks, draw love hearts, stars and other simple symbols, taking up more and more of the side walk… and the writing itself has become utterly meaningless.

But their words still hold power. People will literally cause commuter congestion, shuffling to one side of the thoroughfare, just to avoid stepping on them – I’ve stood and watched them trying like hell not to touch the writing, without a second glance, or the first thought as to what the writing actually says…

Are these people writers? How do define what makes a writer… the ability to spell (I rely on a word processor to give myself to confidence to blog)… the ability to reach an audience (I can’t even begin the guess the footfall on those streets) …the ability to earn money (as surely they must, or else they wouldn’t do it – the desire to express is one thing, but the need to eat is a whole other motivation) These people are writers. Even though they perhaps they will never be read.

I have considered writing on the streets. Not for money (although I’ll freely admit that I have been poor and hungry during my time), but because I think there is something very wrong with the world, and talking to myself about it won’t raise awareness – I can’t help the feeling that there is something deeply poetic in committing my thoughts of injustice to the street, and then standing back to watch on as 99% of people try like hell avoid them, while rushing from one shop to another.

Why haven’t I? Well, that answer is simple, I’ve been cold, poor and hungry – I wouldn’t want to take away any opportunity for a cold, poor and hungry person to get money to eat (or even feed their addictions).

Anyway, we blog about writing here, not social injustices, homelessness and self-denial… so, if you happen to see some writing on the streets, maybe we bookworms can pull together and make sure these writers gets read.

[Note: I have no idea where this writing on street thing started – perhaps it happens all over the world, perhaps it’s always happened all over the world. All I know is that I never saw it in Dublin before a couple of years ago; and now I see it all over the place.]

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