Wednesday, March 2, 2011



What separates us are painted
lines, drawn across thick asphalt.

You, standing on a street corner,
your hunger held between both hands
and scrawled across cardboard.

Me, sitting in a car I can’t afford,
listening to NPR, waiting for
the traffic light to change.

Moving coordinates on the map,
we sometimes collide like this—
our paths intersecting along the roadway.


What separates us
is a short distance between curbs—
the paved road I’m driving and
the graveled space beneath
the underpass where you sit.

That I might hunger food is unlikely
upon this road where you sometimes live
and work the corners.

I possess what is cast from the mold
from which I emerged, wanting
for neither food nor shelter,
neither clothes nor shoes.

My hunger is relative.

A need for more than the paltry sum
of being alive and surviving, it is bent
to the shape of my shame for breathing
in and out and still living.


What separates us is my car’s glass window,
through which we observe one another,
not unfriendly or friendly in our mutual gaze,
but a casual assessment of the other.

You are hungry,
and I am hunger.

We are close enough to speak,
but we don’t.

© Ami Mattison

Flickr photo courtesy of zen

For One Stop Poetry's One Shot Wednesday


  1. "My hunger is relative." I love that line because it breaks through those drawn lines, down to the most human level. "What separates us is my car’s glass window..." Another telling line. Many people look down upon the homeless, as if animals fit for the zoo; however, in this "line" the speaker is the one encased by glass windows. Excellent poetry and social commentary.

  2. mmm...nice write...i think we all hunger to know and be known to a certain extent, not fame mind you but just to be least i have that hunger...its a shame the opportunites that pass beyond the window...

  3. This is an odd country, where the divide between the hungry and those who hunger is so small in all the commonplace ways -- a strip of asphalt, windshield glass -- and yet is so huge in the rawer truths of existence. A very sober evaluation wonderfully metered and meted out. Been there, done that, driven on my way too, gritting my teeth at the inequities of the world as told by NPR. - Brendan

  4. My reaction is always fear to this situation you've captured here--fear that the lines, the glass, aren't separation enough to save me from standing on the other side. I have the abhorrence that comes with seeing an alternate failed self, not the security and maturity of the narrator here. An eloquent and dispassionate view that yet contains much passion and an understanding beyond fear, and so you paint truer, I think.

  5. Sublime, concrete (also) = elements of effective, excellent poetry - like this one. Love this.

  6. incrediable writing Ami, and you take us to the street and confront us we the images we like to turn from, or wish that would just go away so we do not have to look at our own hunger....thank you...bkm

  7. There's a stark, almost minimalist feel to this poem. Perhaps is the separation of the two drivers. Excellent poem.

  8. Hello Ami

    its bad enough I already have an insidious presence in my head, that does not allow me to develop selective vision and hearing...I am not sure I want read about it as well!! :) just kidding...
    i think you may just have sparked off a beginnings of a poem...

  9. you paint a vivid image...a scene we all know..a moment "on the road" and i just love what feels like a snapshot with subtitles..

  10. "You are hungry/ and I am hunger"
    Ami this is brilliant! What an honest, honest, honest glimpse into that situation so many of us have encountered and never given words to. Because there is that ambiguity, that moment, that bird's-eye-view of such a situation where we analyze our life in an instant and see someone so close, yet so far. This is wonderful! I love how you focus in on the window's glass in the end, you make it so real and HUMAN. Nice!

  11. An honest portrayal of homelessness and how we interact/not interact with others. Do we have more in common with those we perceive as different? I imagine we do. We live our lives on the same continuum. It can go up and down.